First, I am going to tell you a lie.
A few days before I left Clarion, I had a dream about Poseidon, commanding me to return his whip to the ocean. I woke up in the predawn hours with the taste of salt in my mouth. I stepped out onto the deck outside of my bedroom, my fingers reaching to unwind the kelp that I and a fellow Clarionite had hauled from the frothy tide weeks before. I carried the kelp down the steep cliff to Black’s Beach, and stood barefoot at the lip of the earth. Poseidon slid up from the water, his curling beard composed of tangled seaweed and living eels, with eyes dark as polished onyx. He took his whip, rigid and dried from its weeks away from home, and soaked it in the water. A curling wave caught the hem of my nightgown. He picked the kelp up, bent it into a lasso, pantomimed curling it around my neck. He laughed, and it sounded like seashells chattering in a beachcomber’s pocket. He pressed his damp thumb into my forehead. When I woke up, he was gone. I was stiff and cold on the shore, and my body was dusted with sand. I came back to the apartments just as the sun crept over the horizon.
I did not wake up from that dream. I woke up because I heard joggers chatting at each other outside my open window. I stood on the porch because it was morning and I needed cool air to wake me up, and when I touched the kelp, I could feel the story budding inside of me, involuntary as breath. I have always written stories, but somehow, now, things are different.
Now, more truth. What is at Clarion?
Squabbling hummingbirds. The edge of the world. Men named Rocket. Hairy ropes of kelp thick like a human arm. Love, and pain. Music that throbs in our ribcages. Lasers speckling our faces as steam curls around us. Salt and light. Carloads of people soaring fast over a dark and empty road. Bear gods made of stone. All of human sin and virtue blinking in sight from our window. Black rays swimming through the sea like so many birds. Birds the size of housecats, screaming with accusing eyes. Feasts and epic battles. Hands linking in a hot and crowded club, a weaving line of writers ascending from a hole in the earth. Walls of glass. Thorny trees that carry us into the sky. Piles of happy bodies. Hours in libraries, digging through old texts. The high tide rushing at us, terrifying. The low tide showing us secrets. Ravens screaming our fates at us from the rooftops. Tilted houses. Flying machines. Keys with no locks, locks with no keys. Robots. Mysterious white woods, with women in red fluttering between the trees. Bizarre flora and fauna and late nights and falling asleep in chairs and flower teas and rock gardens and giant snakes and our own personal ghosts dragging behind us like deployed parachutes. Us yelling into the caverns of our own futures, listening for the messages in the echoes.
And words. So many words. Words pouring out of us, faster than if letters ran in our blood and you opened our veins over empty pages.
They say that we come to Clarion to learn how to be writers of science fiction and fantasy. We are learning how to lie, for money. We are learning how to sell our lies. We are learning how our lies can bring pleasure and invoke terror and laughter and wonder.
But do you want to know the truth about Clarion? The honest truth of it?
We already live in the future. Everything is already magic.
We’re just learning how to see it.