The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Rocket Fall" by David Prill: An Appreciation by David Herter

1. The Fall of the Painships

Rocket Fall by David Prill. . .
Rocket Fall by David Prill. . .
Rocket Fall by David Prill. . .

Welcome children of the night to the darkest hour of "Rocket Fall" by David Prill. "Rocket Fall" by David Prill, where David Prill clocks Bradbury on the back of the head (with reel six of Roger Corman's Fall of the House of Usher, no less), and the concussion rings with dark and terrible delights. "Rocket Fall" by David Prill, where the pathos of The Marquis De Sade meets the dramaturgy of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. "Rocket Fall" by David Prill, where David Prill pours us a cocktail of dandelion wine laced with pure bang-up psilocybin--

. . . . .

Obsequious adulation shunted into venting port?


Canny valuation monitors set to proper post-Bradbury slash post-Ballard slash post-post-Lovecraft mode?


Vaporous internet text saved to local hard drive?


. . . . .

"Good evening, folks, and Praise Madeline. We're broadcasting live at the burial of "Rocket Fall" by David Prill near the shores of Lake Tenebrae. Mere moments from now, an aetheric cartridge holding its remains will be laid atop this kerosene-soaked wooden raft, nudged into the ebon serene waters and there set ablaze by our own Mike Sanders, who is standing by in the Madeline-Live-at-Five news copter. Mike, can you hear me?"

"I certainly can, Ger-- I--"

"Mike? Hello, Mike, your signal dropped out there."

"Yeah, Gerald. We're experiencing some interference from the various manifestations in the Lake waters this afternoon. I'm sending you live-feed now of the gathering. Do you--"

"Yes, yes, Mike, we're receiving it. Would you look at that."

"On a normal commute day we never see anything like this, of course. The manifestations rarely rise near the surface. And now--yeah, right there, Jim, point it at one o'clock. Gerald, you can see a flock of Demon-Jacknapes breaching the waves, just a mile or so off-shore."

"Wow, quite a sight. Mike, are those tentacles?"

"Yeah, the orifices have opened up, and yes, those are tentacles. As I think we all learned--whoa, hold on, Jim--uh, as I think we all learned in elementary pain school, one doesn't see those tentacles and escape with one's mind intact. I don't have the quote entirely, um, praise Madeline."

"Mike? I'm being told by Deborah, our producer, that it's 'look upon. . .' Yes, I'll have Deb say it--"

"Hi, Mike. It goes 'Look upon the dread Chtonic visage and feel the weight of countless loathsome universes shatter the very fabric of your mind.' That's why I don't swim in Lake Tenebrae."

"Thanks, Deb."

"Gerald, as you can see, those tentacles are snapping at the air, trying to get at my copter. What they really want, of course, is the aetheric cartridge . . ."

"And that's as good a segue as any, Mike. Thanks. So now we'll go out to Dee Pegs, who's spent the day with the short story in question as it was being prepared. Dee?"

"Thanks, Gerald. This is Dee Pegs standing beside the aetheric cartridge. Or, rather, standing as close as I can get without breaching its aetheric field, which has now been turned on, Gerald."

"Ah, that's an important milestone, Dee. We've been waiting for it."

"And I . . . if I could get Dr. Dark from the Roderick Institute to say a word or two. Dr. Dark, are you somewhere in the procedure where you could talk to the Madeline-Live-at-Five viewers?"

"Oh. Hello. Uh, no, not really."

"Very briefly, Dr. Dark. Turning on the aetheric field is a big step in preparing the story for burial, isn't it?"

"Indeed. The story has been put to rest. It is now for all intents and purposes dormant, and at peace."

"Doctor, we’ve had reports that Demon-Jacknapes have surfaced in Lake Tenebrae. What problems do they pose for the proper burial of the aetheric cartridge?"

"They should pose no problem. They'll have plenty of competition in devouring it."

"I'm being. . . yes, I understand, I'm being told by your assistant that you have to return to the task. Let me just get one last point in, Doctor: Now that the story is being 'put to rest,' as you call it, there will in fact be little rest for it? Is that the case?"

"Absolutely, my dear. It will most certainly be digested in many dimensions for countless millennia, fueling the very aetheric Nature that surrounds us."

"Doctor, did you have a favorite line from the story?"

"I simply cannot offer a comment. Thank you. Farewell."

"Thank you, Doctor. Gerald, I think everything's ready over here. I see that the band is about to strike up, and, wow, that Sousaphone player seems super-thrilled at the prospect, doesn't he?"

"Yes, he certainly does. Do you have a favorite line you'd like to mention, Dee?"

"I do, Gerald. I hurt inside."

"That's a good one, Dee. I think we all hurt inside, ever since losing Baron Armstrong and his beloved Madeline. What about you, Deb? Oh--wait--yes, they're now levitating the story onto the burial raft. Mike, how close are those Jacknapes to shore?"

"They seem a bit timid, Gerald. They're not lovers of band music, of course, and I think they sense what's coming. They shouldn't interfere with the actual launching of the raft, at least."

"Well, don't take any chances. Deb, favorite line? Favorite moment?"

"Any mention of lee–-"

"Your, uh. Wait. Did you catch that, folks? Deb's microphone cut out. She says, 'Any mention of lederhosen.' The interference, the aetheric interference, is rising as the moment approaches. As you can all see, the aetheric cartridge has been settled onto the raft, and yes, they've begun nudging the raft down toward the water. And yes, there's the music. Wow. A beautiful yet sad sight, praise Madeline. I must admit, I never read the story myself, but others have told me--Mike, you read it, didn't you?"

"I waited too long, Gerald. I regret that, now. When I get home from work I find myself sticking to TV. And I've never enjoyed reading on a computer screen. Too hard on the eyes. Anyway, Jim's read it. Jim, you loved it, right? Yep, Gerald, he's giving me the thumbs up, he absolutely loved it, and says that he will miss it desperately. And he agrees with Dee on that line. It's a plum."

"Well, folks, why don't we just watch, and listen, and take in all that this day has to offer. I see the sun is setting over the lake, casting a blood-red band of brilliance over those ebon waters. I'm going to stop jabbering now, and spend a moment experiencing this truly wonderful and terribly sad event along with you at home."

Link to story.

David Herter is the author of Ceres Storm and Evening's Empire. Forthcoming is On the Overgrown Path, from PS Publishing.


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