Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.
Check out the excerpt below, along with an exclusive first-look image of The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher. The book will be published Oct. 3.
I can do this, and shall — I will not fail.
Controls engag’d, we fly into the air
O’er sandy dunes we soar above
Jakku. Until this moment life hath
simple been: Led only by mine
instinct to survive, Depending on no
person but myself.
Belike Fate hath for me some other plan —
E’en with th’Resistance shall my path be
join’d, Knit closely unto them as skin to
I take delight, such future to envision,
Ne’er hath my days such keen adventure known.
Tut, tut, it shall not be, nor may not, nay —
Out there, beyond the stars, my destiny
Shall not be found, for here I’m bound to
wait. Keen is my heart to see my family,
Yet when shall they return? Until that day,
Whene’er some undertaking doth arise
As has, today, come knocking on my
door, Lo, though the venture calls unto
my heart — Knocks deep within my
soul to answer it — E’en then, I know
it may not, shall not,
Restricted is my life unto Jakku,
So may I see my family again
Once they have made their certain
homecoming. Meanwhile, I shall this
bulky ship direct
If in the doing I may keep us safe.
Link’d are this droid and this man
unto me —
Deliv’rance or disaster, come apace!
Jamie was unmoved by contemplation of Fergus’s tender state.
“Aye, well, he’ll be wed a long time,” he said callously. “Do him no harm to keep his breeches on for one night. And they do say that abstinence makes the heart grow firmer, no?”
“Absence,” I said, dodging the spoon for a moment. “And fonder. If anything’s growing firmer from abstinence, it wouldn’t be his heart.”
“That’s verra bawdy talk for a respectable marrit woman,” Jamie said reprovingly, sticking the spoon in my mouth. “And inconsiderate, forbye.”
I swallowed. “Inconsiderate?”
“I’m a wee bit firm myself at the moment,” he replied evenly, dipping and spooning. “What wi’ you sitting there wi’ your hair loose and your nipples starin’ me in the eye, the size of cherries.”
I glanced down involuntarily, and the next spoonful bumped my nose. Jamie clicked his tongue, and picking up a cloth, briskly blotted my bosom with it. It was quite true that my shift was made of thin cotton, and even when dry, reasonably easy to see through.
“It’s not as though you haven’t seen them before,” I said, amused.
He laid down the cloth and raised his brows.
“I have drunk water every day since I was weaned,” he pointed out. “It doesna mean I canna be thirsty, still.” He picked up the spoon. “You’ll have a wee bit more?”
“No, thanks,” I said, dodging the oncoming spoon. “I want to hear more about this firmness of yours.”
“No, ye don’t; you’re ill.”
“I feel much better,” I assured him. “Shall I have a look at it?” He was wearing the loose petticoat breeches the sailors wore, in which he could easily have concealed three or four dead mullet, let alone a fugitive firmness.
“You shall not,” he said, looking slightly shocked. “Someone might come in. And I canna think your looking at it would help a bit.”
“Well, you can’t tell that until I have looked at it, can you?” I said. “Besides, you can bolt the door.”
“Bolt the door? What d’ye think I’m going to do? Do I look the sort of man would take advantage of a woman who’s not only wounded and boiling wi’ fever, but drunk as well?” he demanded. He stood up, nonetheless.
“I am not drunk,” I said indignantly. “You can’t get drunk on turtle soup!” Nonetheless, I was conscious that the glowing warmth in my stomach seemed to have migrated somewhat lower, taking up residence between my thighs, and there was undeniably a slight lightness of head not strictly attributable to fever.
“You can if ye’ve been drinking turtle soup as made by Aloysius O’Shaughnessy Murphy,” he said. “By the smell of it, he’s put at least a full bottle o’ the sherry in it. A verra intemperate race, the Irish.”
“Well, I’m still not drunk.” I straightened up against the pillows as best I could. “You told me once that if you could still stand up, you weren’t drunk.”
“You aren’t standing up,” he pointed out.
“You are. And I could if I wanted to. Stop trying to change the subject. We were talking about your firmness.”
“Well, ye can just stop talking about it, because—” He broke off with a small yelp, as I made a fortunate grab with my left hand.
“Clumsy, am I?” I said, with considerable satisfaction. “Oh, my. Heavens, you do have a problem, don’t you?”
“Will ye leave go of me?” he hissed, looking frantically over his shoulder at the door. “Someone could come in any moment!”
“I told you you should have bolted the door,” I said, not letting go. Far from being a dead mullet, the object in my hand was exhibiting considerable liveliness.
He eyed me narrowly, breathing through his nose.
“I wouldna use force on a sick woman,” he said through his teeth, “but you’ve a damn healthy grip for someone with a fever, Sassenach. If you—”
“I told you I felt better,” I interrupted, “but I’ll make you a bargain; you bolt the door and I’ll prove I’m not drunk.” I rather regretfully let go, to indicate good faith. He stood staring at me for a moment, absentmindedly rubbing the site of my recent assault on his virtue. Then he lifted one ruddy eyebrow, turned, and went to bolt the door.
By the time he turned back, I had made it out of the berth and was standing—a trifle shakily, but still upright—against the frame. He eyed me critically.
“It’s no going to work, Sassenach,” he said, shaking his head. He looked rather regretful, himself. “We’ll never stay upright, wi’ a swell like there is underfoot tonight, and ye know I’ll not fit in that berth by myself, let alone wi’ you.”
There was a considerable swell; the lantern on its swivel-bracket hung steady and level, but the shelf above it tilted visibly back and forth as the Artemis rode the waves. I could feel the faint shudder of the boards under my bare feet, and knew Jamie was right. At least he was too absorbed in the discussion to be seasick.
“There’s always the floor,” I suggested hopefully. He glanced down at the limited floor space and frowned. “Aye, well. There is, but we’d have to do it like snakes, Sassenach, all twined round each other amongst the table legs.”
“I don’t mind.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head, “it would hurt your arm.” He rubbed a knuckle across his lower lip, thinking. His eyes passed absently across my body at about hip level, returned, fixed, and lost their focus. I thought the bloody shift must be more transparent than I realized.
Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I let go my hold on the frame of the berth and lurched the two paces necessary to reach him. The roll of the ship threw me into his arms, and he barely managed to keep his own balance, clutching me tightly round the waist.
“Jesus!” he said, staggered, and then, as much from reflex as from desire, bent his head and kissed me.
It was startling. I was accustomed to be surrounded by the warmth of his embrace; now it was I who was hot to the touch and he who was cool. From his reaction, he was enjoying the novelty as much as I was.
Light-headed, and reckless with it, I nipped the side of his neck with my teeth, feeling the waves of heat from my face pulsate against the column of his throat. He felt it, too.
“God, you’re like holding a hot coal!” His hands dropped lower and pressed me hard against him.
“Firm is it? Ha,” I said, getting my mouth free for a moment. “Take those baggy things off.” I slid down his length and onto my knees in front of him, fumbling mazily at his flies. He freed the laces with a quick jerk, and the petticoat breeches ballooned to the floor with a whiff of wind.
I didn’t wait for him to remove his shirt; just lifted it and took him. He made a strangled sound and his hands came down on my head as though he wanted to restrain me, but hadn’t the strength.
“Oh, Lord!” he said. His hands tightened in my hair, but he wasn’t trying to push me away. “This must be what it’s like to make love in Hell,” he whispered. “With a burning she-devil.”
I laughed, which was extremely difficult under the circumstances. I choked, and pulled back a moment, breathless.
“Is this what a succubus does, do you think?”
“I wouldna doubt it for a moment,” he assured me. His hands were still in my hair, urging me back.
A knock sounded on the door, and he froze. Confident that the door was indeed bolted, I didn’t.
“Aye? What is it?” he said, with a calmness rather remarkable for a man in his position.
“Fraser?” Lawrence Stern’s voice came through the door. “The Frenchman says the black is asleep, and may he have leave to go to bed now?”
“No,” said Jamie shortly. “Tell him to stay where he is; I’ll come along and relieve him in a bit.”
“Oh.” Stern’s voice sounded a little hesitant. “Surely. His … um, his wife seems … eager for him to come now.”
Jamie inhaled sharply.
“Tell her,” he said, a small note of strain becoming evident in his voice, “that he’ll be there … presently.”
“I will say so.” Stern sounded dubious about Marsali’s reception of this news, but then his voice brightened. “Ah … is Mrs. Fraser feeling somewhat improved?”
“Verra much,” said Jamie, with feeling.
“She enjoyed the turtle soup?”
“Greatly. I thank ye.” His hands on my head were trembling.
“Did you tell her that I’ve put aside the shell for her? It was a fine hawksbill turtle; a most elegant beast.”
“Aye. Aye, I did.” With an audible gasp, Jamie pulled away and reaching down, lifted me to my feet.
“Good night, Mr. Stern!” he called. He pulled me toward the berth; we struggled four-legged to keep from crashing into tables and chairs as the floor rose and fell beneath us.
“Oh.” Lawrence sounded faintly disappointed. “I suppose Mrs. Fraser is asleep, then?”
“Laugh, and I’ll throttle ye,” Jamie whispered fiercely in my ear. “She is, Mr. Stern,” he called through the door. “I shall give her your respects in the morning, aye?”
“I trust she will rest well. There seems to be a certain roughness to the sea this evening.”
“I … have noticed, Mr. Stern.” Pushing me to my knees in front of the berth, he knelt behind me, groping for the hem of my shift. A cool breeze from the open stern window blew over my naked buttocks, and a shiver ran down the backs of my thighs.
“Should you or Mrs. Fraser find yourselves discommoded by the motion, I have a most capital remedy to hand—a compound of mugwort, bat dung, and the fruit of the mangrove. You have only to ask, you know.”
Jamie didn’t answer for a moment.
“Oh, Christ!” he whispered. I took a sizable bite of the bedclothes.
“I said, ‘Thank you’!” Jamie replied, raising his voice.
“Well, I shall bid you a good evening, then.”
Jamie let out his breath in a long shudder that was not quite a moan.
“Good evening, Mr. Stern!” Jamie bellowed.
“Oh! Er … good evening.”
Stern’s footsteps receded down the companionway, lost in the sound of the waves that were now crashing loudly against the hull. I spit out the mouthful of quilt.
“Oh … my … God!”
His hands were large and hard and cool on my heated flesh.
“You’ve the roundest arse I’ve ever seen!”
A lurch by the Artemis here aiding his efforts to an untoward degree, I uttered a loud shriek.
“Shh!” He clasped a hand over my mouth, bending over me so that he lay over my back, the billowing linen of his shirt falling around me and the weight of him pressing me to the bed. My skin, crazed with fever, was sensitive to the slightest touch, and I shook in his arms, the heat inside me rushing outward as he moved within me.
His hands were under me then, clutching my breasts, the only anchor as I lost my boundaries and dissolved, conscious thought a displaced element in the chaos of sensations—the warm damp of tangled quilts beneath me, the cold sea wind and misty spray that wafted over us from the rough sea outside, the gasp and brush of Jamie’s warm breath on the back of my neck, and the sudden prickle and flood of cold and heat, as my fever broke in a dew of satisfied desire.
Jamie’s weight rested on my back, his thighs behind mine. It was warm, and comforting. After a long time, his breathing eased, and he rose off me. The thin cotton of my shift was damp, and the wind plucked it away from my skin, making me shiver.
Jamie closed the window with a snap, then bent and picked me up like a rag doll. He lowered me into the berth, and pulled the quilt up over me.
“How is your arm?” he said.
“What arm?” I murmured drowsily. I felt as though I had been melted and poured into a mold to set.
“Good,” he said, a smile in his voice. “Can ye stand up?”
“Not for all the tea in China.”
“I’ll tell Murphy ye liked the soup.” His hand rested for a moment on my cool forehead, passed down the curve of my cheek in a light caress, and then was gone. I didn’t hear him leave.
Long, long ago, when the Earth was new and icthyosaurs swam the turbid seas, Iron Man 2 arrived in theaters. [Ed. Note — Simmer down. It was 2010.]
It was, most agreed, a disappointment, compared to its predecessor, despite a fun and deeply, deeply squirrelly Sam Rockwell performance. (Remember how he had bronzer on his palms? And no one mentioned it, it was just a character thing? Remember that? That was cool.)
I agreed that it didn’t work as well as the original Iron Man, and I said then — declared, really, as I was a younger man, full of Moxie, and gumption, and eels — that I knew why. In fact I developed A Theory. A Grand Unified Theory of Superhero Cinema.
It’s the origin, I thought. It’s crucial. Origin stories are what draw us in and keep us engaged. They’re cinematic road maps, guiding us from here (mundane human existence) to there (a world of costumes, powers, magic, spectacle). Bildungsromans in spandex.
Once you get past the origin story, I thought, what have you got left? Dudes in suits, waling away at each other. Big whoop.
In other words: The origin story is what drives and shapes a superhero franchise, because it grounds all that third-act (and sequel) CGI action in the first-act world where characters have dreams, and relationships, and lived lives. Because in that life, something magical happened — this guy got amazing powers! The origin story tells you how it happened, and why it happened.