“Rescued? From what?”
“A dreadfully dull evening,” says Ysabel…
City of Roses by Kip Manley
There are parallel universes and one of them is not The Internet. We are lucky today to have a web fiction author who lives partially in one of these universes outside of the web (!!) It’s Kip Manley, author of the serial, City of Roses. I think many of us have wondered about the interstices between the literary universes–the one in screens and the one on shelves. So sit up and pay attention because Kip has lived in both.
So who is this Kip character?
Kip Manley was born in Sheffield, Alabama, in the ninth month of 1968. Currently residing in Portland, Oregon (after stints in Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, both Carolinas, Illinois, Arak [Iran], Puerto Ordaz [Venezuela], Boston, and the Pioneer Valley), he ekes out a meagre living as a writer, designer, and cognoscente of marginalized eclectica, with the invaluable companionship of Jenn Manley Lee, Taran Jack, and the best two cats in all the world.
Like all the serials a cheapass like me reads, City of Roses is free. It lives at www.TheCityOfRoses.com . The series thus far is also, however, being sold in ebook and… wait for it… _physical_ form. Yeah, as a book–like the kind with pages (you flip them, you know, no scrolling or clicking. It’s okay, it takes a bit of getting used to, but you’ll get it. It’s like riding a bicycle… ) It is one of the few web serials being sold in real live (ok, dead) paper format. This is is where it crosses the spaces between web serial and traditional novel, between commercial and non, between the books of the screen and the books of the bookshelves.
So… City of Whatnow, you say? Here:
In Kip’s own words
City of Roses is a serialized epic very firmly set in Portland, Oregon–an urban fantasy mixing magical realism with gonzo noirish prose, where sinister high-rise riverfront condos are fought by a sprawling tea-house constructed from scrap lumber and old windows, and ancient sea-gods retire to close-in Southeast apartments with lovely views. —It’s the story of Jo Maguire, a highly strung, underemployed telemarketer, and what happens when she meets Ysabel, a princess of unspecified pedigree. Jo rather unexpectedly becomes Ysabel’s guardian and caretaker, and now must make her way through the strange subculture of Ysabel’s decidedly odd family and friends (which involves rather more swordplay than she’s used to)–while Ysabel must now deal with a diet of frozen pizza and a job that requires her to call strangers on the phone and ask them how satisfied they are with their banks.
Check out this bit:
“And this,” says Ysabel, “is Jo. Who rescued me.”
Jo nods. Then shrugs, smiling uncertainly.
“A pleasure, Jo,” says Robin. “Rescued? From what?”
“A dreadfully dull evening,” says Ysabel, frowning a little. Looking up at nothing in particular. A set of pipes has begun to drone somewhere further in the house. Coming closer. The fiddle scrapes into a new note and begins to wrap a slow pulsing melody around the unseen pipes. “Is this..?” says Ysabel.
The corners of Robin’s mouth turn down, arching his little mustache up and out. “I merely asked them to play. I didn’t tell them what.”
The piper, pale, her clotted yellow-white curls swept back from her face, steps a measured march into the front room to the squeezing of her little pipes. The crowd – varied, lycra and fleece, glittered cheeks, khakis and sweaters, army pants and a black sports bra, a floppy mohawk, a tuxedo, a glittering minidress, a bared chest under swirls of bodypaint, pegged jeans and garish T-shirts, Roland’s green and silver tracksuit as he makes his way across the room, sliding through them all standing quietly now, watching, waiting. The singer smiling as the piper slowly picks up the fiddle’s melody over her drone. The drummer wiping sweat out of his face, swigging something from a red plastic cup.
“It is,” says Ysabel, grabbing Jo’s hand. “Come on.”
“What?” says Jo.
“Lady,” says Roland, there beside them, reaching out to almost but not quite take Ysabel’s arm. “It is perhaps time we got you home.”
“Not yet,” says Ysabel, turning her back to him, her hands on Jo’s upper arms. Her eyes closing. “Listen,” she says.
There’s been a shift in the song, gears changed. The guitar ambling forward now in a rickety rhythm line as the melody takes a breath and repeats itself, strong, assured. The drummer waiting, sticks still. Nodding to someone, hey. The singer looks out over the little crowd there in Robin’s front room and lifts her microphone to her lips and says, half-singing, “Along the shore the cloud waves break, the twin suns sink beneath the lake, the shadows lengthen – in Carcosa…”
Jo frowns. “It’s not hooked up.”
Ysabel, her head tipped back, hair hanging heavy as she sways left foot to right and back, her hands still on Jo’s arms, smiles. “What?”
“The microphone,” says Jo.
“Strange is the night where black stars rise and strange moons circle through the skies – but stranger still is lost Carcosa…”
The drums pop then, once. Someone whoops. The piper’s playing two lines over the steady heartbeat of her drone, one marching a slowly quickening lockstep with the grinning fiddle, the other skirling after the guitar, each chasing the other, looking for the monstrous beats to come. The whole room tensely waiting, almost, almost.
“Songs the Hyades shall sing, where flap the tatters of the King, must die unheard in dim Carcosa…”
Jo closes her eyes. Ysabel’s hands fall away. Jo takes a deep breath.
“Song of my soul, my voice is dead – die though, unsung, as tears unshed shall dry and die in lost Carcosa…”
The fiddle and pipes are pruning, boiling the melody down as the guitar and pipes settle and under it all the drone and the threat of the drums.
“In Carcosa… lost Carcosa… dim Carcosa…”
A grizzled man pauses his bobbing head to shove his white-taped black-rimmed glasses back up his nose. Robin pinches off a blissful little smile and downs the last of whatever’s in his mug. A dark girl in patched overalls throws wide her arms her hands swallowed by bulky workgloves. Becker catches his breath and looks eyes shining at the singer as the woman in cat’s eye glasses eases a hand into the hip pocket of his jeans. The dervish melody has spun itself tighter and tighter until it’s almost nothing more than two notes pulsing on-off one-oh in-out da-da as the singer wails. The drummer lifts his sticks and hangs there, waiting.
“In Carcosa… lost Carcosa… dim Carcosa…”
Jo opens her eyes.
That first brontolithic beat unleashes something monstrous. The room whirls snaps leaps kicks stomps into motion, heaving as one with the avalanching rhythm. Jo is in the thick of it now arms high above her head yelling, yelling, Ysabel beside her, head down, hair flying, all of it so loud the music is almost lost, the band redundant all of them, madly now chasing some driving jig just barely out of reach. The fiddler’s spinning widdershins in a circle of tossing people dancing about him, the piper’s on her knees, cheeks blimped, pipes jerking; the guitarist still cannot be seen up in the shadows on the stairs but can most definitely be heard. The singer’s head’s thrown back, microphone lifted high above her, howling the wordless melody up into it, a drawn-out hopeless nameless vowel, and the drummer’s making up for lost time. But Ysabel is gone.
Jo puts out her hand, stumbling, shoved to one side by the grey-haired woman in the Frankie Say T-shirt. Turns against the dancing crowd, bumbling against the lumbering boy with the wispy beard and the black leather trench coat. Ysabel’s there at the foot of the stairs yelling something at Roland whose bicycle-gloved hand is clamped around her upper arm. Jo looks away rolling her eyes and is knocked two staggering steps towards them by the whipcracking arms of the man in the glittering vest. The band suddenly and out of nowhere hits a spattering of notes as one, a clarion, a fanfare, and falls back as suddenly into its churning driving almost-chaos. “Carcosa…” moans the singer, and Jo pushes her way between a woman in a white fur coat and a man whose long brown arms are fishnetted in hot pink. Roland pulls Ysabel after him towards the door. He’s saying something about her mother.
“Do not mention my mother again this night,” snaps Ysabel. “As a favor. To me.”
“Hey,” says Jo. Planting her feet.
Roland purses his lips and looks away from them both. Lets go Ysabel’s arm and she steps back once toward the stairs as he lifts his hand to touch the bridge of his nose lightly, closing his eyes. He peels the green sunglasses from his face and his eyes are mild as he turns them again to Ysabel. “Lady,” he says. “Enough. You have made your point.” He holds out his hand for her to take. “But now we must be off.”
“I’m not here to make a point,” says Ysabel, just barely to be heard over the music. She smiles sweetly. “I’m here to enjoy myself.”
“Okay?” says Jo. “So just go. Leave her – ”
“Who are you?” says Roland.
“What?” says Jo.
“Who are you, that you should care about this?” He turns to face Jo now, and his eyes are no longer mild. “That she should be a concern to you?” He throws out a hand, encompassing the dancing room. “You don’t belong here. Who are you, to interfere?”
“I don’t know,” says Jo. She shrugs. “I guess I don’t like bullies.”
“I am her guardian!” says Roland. “She is my charge. My responsibility – ”
“You have a funny way of showing it,” says Jo.
“Are you,” says Roland, quiet now under the stomping feet, the roaring band, “impugning my honor?”
Jo snorts. “Honor?”
The band driving up out of nowhere hits its spattered unison again; and again – the syncopated, punch-drunk fanfare. In the moment of silence between the last note driven home and the first whoops from the suddenly motionless dancers the rip of velcro is shockingly loud. As applause breaks out all around them Roland strips the bicycle glove from his right hand and throws it at Jo’s feet.
“Well?” he says.
“Well?” says Jo, frowning.
“What say you?”
“What say me?” says Jo.
“‘What say I,’” says Ysabel. Smiling. “Pick up the glove.”
Jo, still frowning, not taking her eyes off Roland, kneels slowly. Picks up the grubby glove.
“Name your terms,” says Roland.
“Terms,” says Jo. Standing up.
“As the challenged. What weapons? Where? When?”
“Weapons?” says Jo.
Want to know what goes on in the interstices of the literary world? Kip’s interview will be up soon, but in the meantime, go check out City of Roses!