Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, October 31, 2008

about halloween

Costumes are great. I love costumes. However, I believe Trick or Treating is for suckers. When I was a wee lad, I twisted my ankle on a curb and had to go home early from trick or treating. At that time, I discovered that I was sitting next to a giant bowl of candy, and I could control what got given out to others and what ended up in my mouth.

Trick or treating is for suckers.

Now I'm an adult, and I spend Halloween eating candy and watching movies. Movies like "Donnie Darko" and "Alien" and "The Dark Crystal".

Want to come over and hang out with me? Call me. You got my number.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

adventure baking!

I love to bake, but I hate following recipes. What does this mean? It means whenever the baking bug bites me, I discover who my true friends are.

"What is it?"

"Just try it. It's good."

"Okay, but what is it?"

"Seriously, just try it!"

"It looks kind of... purple. Is it supposed to be purple?"

"Just try it!"

"What's in it?"

"Flour... Eggs... Grape juice... Curry Powder...Tequila..."

"I'm not putting that in my mouth."

"It's good!"

"Seriously, get that sh** out of my face."

"The frosting was made from powdered sugar and orange juice. It's a very simple little glaze. It really enhances the curry."

"I am going to hit you if you do not get that sh** out of my face right now. I will hit you very hard, in places you might need later."

"Aw. You're no fun. I guess you're not really my friend."

Sometimes I'll follow a recipe until I get bored, then wander off new and exciting pathways in the recipe.

Always, the results are surprising, and sometimes genuinely hideous like the banana+italian seasoning nightmare scenario, but they are always interesting.

Things every adventure baker needs? Flour, pancake mix, baking soda, yeast, eggs, butter, sugar, various herbs and spices, and plenty of tenacious curiosity.

Adventure baking is fun. You never know what you will discover!

Go forth! Create! Eat the evidence (if you can... *hurk* wow, too much curry, not enough cocoa powder)!

Also, you will discover who is your friend enough to at least take a bite of the strange lumps of baked good that emerge from your oven.

Believe it or not, many of them will be quite tasty, despite the fact that no one else will eat them out of foolish fear.

Recipes are boring.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

thought फॉर थे डे...

insects have no faces. they have eyes, but no faces.

moths and flies swim through the sky in circles, blind to what's right in front of where their face would be, if they were like us.

that's all for today, party people.

if you can early vote, i highly recommend it. you are running out of time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stuff I'm thinking about

You know, there has been some talk ih the wires about medie tie-in novels.

Jeff VanderMeer, of course, just produced his take on Predator v Everyone, and I know I'll get to it, eventually. I admit, I'm far more interested in his latest Ambergris novel. I am very curious to see what he does within the straightjacket of media tie-in.

I know a couple friends that do much media tie-in work. Martha Wells is not only an awesome fantasist of such works as "Death of the Necromancer" and "City of Bones", but she also works in the SeaQuest world (because, as she explains, she oves SeaQuest.)

Samantha Henderson recently wrote a kick-ass media tie-in novel in the Ravenloft world. The first line stays with you: "I am a speaking angel." You'll know what I mean when you read it.

Chris Roberson, a partner in alcohol-related crimes at every sci-fi convention, has written quite a few and continues to do so, on top of running a publishing company with his wife, and raising a daughter. I admit that I have yet to meet his daughter. For all I know, he says he has a daughter, and really just photoshopped a bunch of pictures together that he shows to people, always saying his daughter is at grandma's or at the sitter or somewhere. Seriously, where does he find the time for everything he does?

Regardless, if there was a stigma, I bet it wasn't because of the quality of the books. I bet it was the quality of the contracts. If everyone knew you were cranking out a book under a crappy contract that wouldn't even carry your name, why would they respect that? If people, however, got paid a decent check, and got crossover audience from the shared world into the author's original fiction, and was treated respctfully by the publisher - well, naturally, this is the stuff that respectability is made of.

I've actually been very open to doing work for hire. I've expressed this many times in many ears. No one has hired me. Why would they hire me, when they could hire Jeff Frikkin' Vandermeer, right? Why hire me when you can hire someone at the same price whose fans will follow them into the shared world?

Anyway, I was just thinking about media tie-in novels, and how unsuccessful I've been at getting my challenge-loving hands around one. I'm always up for new adventures and new difficult boxes out of which to work, after all.

I might even write a YA novel next. Who knows?

Having rambled enough for one day, I leave you with this important thought that I am thinking about, watching a stranger walk down the street:

"If you see a stranger, follow him!" - Radical Edward, from Cowboy Bebop Episode "Toys in the Attic"

Gotta go follow that stranger...

Monday, October 27, 2008

what is that smell?...

Right. This apartment needs cleaning.

Anybody want to help me excavate the dishes? Anybody want to take all these empty bottles and cans to the recycling place? Anybody want to vacuum all that cat hair? And, all THAT cat hair? That cat hair over there? The cat hair in the couch? The cat hair in the laundry?

Anybody want to babysit my laundry machine and move my dirty laundry through?

Wow. I seriously let this go last week or two. Hm.

(In related news, I mailed a book to my agent. Fingers crossed they like it. Now, roll up those sleeves and get your scrubbing bubbles ready. This writer cave needs some attention.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What do you want to promote?

All comments promoting something - anything - will be moved up into the main post before tomorrow.

Tell me what you want to promote, and let's all check it out, together!

Edit: Only one comment this Sunday? I guess you're all watching football, or enjoying the lovely fall weather. Well, anonymouse wished to promote something. It isn't exactly what I had in mind when I made this post, but hey, the readers will get what they want!

[quote] Pure Love - Not romantic love, not true love - The kind of love that gives without expecting anything in return [/quote]

I actually don't quite understand what that is, but I consider it thoroughly promoted, now.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weird Tales Website Redesign Looks AWESOME!

Also, and this is important enough to merit it's own, brand-spanking new post on the blog:

Weird Tales Website Redesign Looks Awesome.

This is an awesome magazine, with a very well-respected editor at the helm.


I especially recommend the free download of last month's issue.

Don't miss that.

1-Minute Weird Tale Debuts!

I am honored to be the first 1-Minute Weird Tale.

Thanks to Ann for inviting me!

Friday, October 24, 2008

did you early vote today? you did? have a pizza!

I early voted today. Go me! I deserve a pizza!

In line with me at the Benbrook YMCA to early vote was a very nice Muslim woman who moved here to Texas from Detroit. She was real nice. We talked about roller coasters. It made me happy to know that, because I was thinking about Colin Powell's statement how one party has really assaulted the Muslim faith, equating all followers of Allah as the equivalent of terrorists.

Frankly, this is one of the reasons I voted completely against that particular party. I went through the whole ballot, leaving blank all the spots where only a republican was running for a post, and voting for libertarians and/or independents based on that qualification alone.

I most certainly Obama/Biden. Yes, very much so.

That said, I don't care what your political affiliations are. We all have political opinions. We're all supposed to take time to rationally measure out the issues and the policies and the candidates and all that, and leave our arguments and posturings and disagreements at the door of the voting location.

We quietly, respectfully go in to our booth, and make our little statement.

Everything else is just noise and bluster and bloggers/pundits/etc begging for attention.

Go vote for your preferred candidate! Then, go get a pizza, because you deserve it!

(Early voting in Texas began this week, and lasts until October 31. Check with your local and state voting officials for information about how you, too, can vote early. Then, go vote. Then, go get a pizza. Because you deserve it for voting!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

just heard from...

I just heard from Atomjack Magazine, and it seems they have decided to publish "Dave Jones and the Survivor" in their next issue.

This story is based on a real life experience I had flying from Vancouver to Dallas. Two men with the same name ended up assigned to the same seat. In real life, neither man was a danger to anyone, and the older of the two men was given an open seat in first class, instead.

Fortunately, the science fiction version of the story will be a touch more exciting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

you ask me what the secret ingredient is...?

you ask me what the secret ingredient is to the perfect peanut butter and banana sandwich?

Lean in close. It's a secret. I'll tell you, but be sure not to tell anyone else, okay, because this is, like a confidential bit of culinary information I'm about to lay on you.

Lean close.



*whisper* hot cocoa powder */whisper*

There, and please don't tell anyone else. This is just between you and me, 'kay?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

अबंदोनेद prose

I thought I could escape Berlin by train. I started at Zoo Station. Mine wasn’t one of the little city trains filled with bicycles, business suits, and pickpockets, lumbering around the city. My train was a land cruiser, destination distant. We stopped at the Hauptbahnhof long enough to encumber the seats with loud families, young people backpacking between hostels, and men in better business suits playing cards and smoking on their way to important meetings. I thought I could escape with them, on their train.
I watched out the window a long time. I watched the graffiti for signs of life. The Brother’s Kiss was changed everywhere. The Russian had blonde hair, and a beard like me. The German’s skin was smooth and nut brown like an old Turkish woman with short, black hair. The geometrical graffiti had changed, too. All those swoops and whirls had formed an abstract portrait of a room I knew too well. All the letters and words were pieces of a name slowly emerging from the walls. Ampelman was no longer cheerful. He was running away, and the colors of the city reached for him like monsters. Streets got lost in each other.
I saw Berlin everywhere. Everywhere I saw Berlin. I saw Berlin and Berlin and Berlin.
The train passed out of Berlin, into the suburbs that littered the flat, ruined former Soviet countryside all around. I breathed easier outside the city.
I thought I could escape the signs. I thought my train would carry me somewhere new. I could start over, make a fresh begin new work and make new friends. All the mistakes of Berlin would not follow me across the long plain to the mountains at the end of the sky.
I closed my eyes when Berlin fell behind us on the tracks. I tried to wipe Zoe out of my mind. I tried to push her father out of my mind. Where do our memories go when we push them aside? They creep under the edges of the mind’s mattress, like the monsters of our childhood. We see their tremulous forms under the surface of everything.
I drank coffee so I wouldn’t sleep. It didn’t work. Berlin was in my dreams. Berlin was everywhere...

Monday, October 20, 2008

ancient eggrolls

what strange beasts these must have been, rummaging in the kitchens and refridgerators. see how they have fossilized in such a tight, worm-like structure?

they must have stalked their prey - vegetables and perhaps bits of meat - while lying flat and wide open to retain thinness. they inched their way through the gaps of freezers, and through the lid of dumpsters. upon discovering their prey, they fold themselves up, to digest the substances into thin, tiny strips.

so many of them seem to have been choked to death on their own engorgement. so many seem to have been crushed and snapped in twain.

what a strange creature it must have been, these fossilized worm-like, manta-ray like eggroll creatures.

someday, will archaeologists mislabel them as liing things?

probably, says I. eggrolls look like they ought to be alive.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

another shining example of why I don't get to have nice things...

This morning, whilst doing my laundry, I discovered my cell phone at the bottom of the washing machine. Thoroughly waterlogged. Thoroughly destroyed.


Thusly, will I never pay much scratch for something fancy-schmancy like a blackberry or an iPhone.

I don't even know how many cellphones I've gone through this year.

I'll pick up a Go-Phone this week, soon-like, and a replacement as soon as I can.

In the mean time, if you call me, you can leave a message. I'll get the message eventually.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

*sniff* *sniff* *shudder*

Wow. You guys and gals are really lucky I don't have a digital camera. Otherwise you'd get to see the bowl of chili that sat "soaking" in soapy water for like a week and a half in my sink.

Also, in related news, I think I might finish this big thing this weekend and will be sending it off.

I can see the end. I'm so close to this.

Gotta go, folks.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Onion article... Uh... Scary!

Seen courtesy of Neil Gaiman's Journal, he points out this frightening article from the Onion, January 17, 2001:

You have to read it to believe it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Just heard from LCRW...

It's lookin' like I just sold "Death's Shed" to Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

This makes me very happy, because that's one of my favorite little zines, and it's edited by one of my favorite short story writers (the dazzling Kelly Link).

Also, any volunteers want to do my dishes? Somebody needs to do my dishes, and it certainly isn't going to be me. Have you seen my dishes? That old chili bowl has become... unholy.


That is all for today.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Right. Blog entry.



Pirate Elvis says, "Argh you lonesome tonight? Without a blog entry tonight? Argh you thirsty for peanut butter and banana daiquri sandwiches?"

Good night.

*Shuffles back off to work on something big...*

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Man in the Mountain

(Author's note: This story first appeared in New Myths #1, which I noticed had been lost to the aether completely when the host crashed. John never did get it back up on-line. Thus, shall I post the story here, for your reading pleasure.)

"Man in the Mountain"

A man in a mountain tells me these stories. I am sitting cross-legged below him, and I don’t know how much longer I can pretend that my legs haven’t fallen asleep.


"A king liked his vassals to be loyal as if to God. He brought them into his palace, fed them a feast laced with drugs, and woke them in a paradise on top of a mountain. Beautiful women roamed the hills with wine on their backs. Strong, young men held up the roof. Songbirds from all over the known world flew freely in the rafters, no predators in sight. Exotic beasts lounged on the stairs, unafraid of the touch of men.

"At night, the young vassal ingested more drugs hidden in a fine feast. He woke to his king’s mortal smile. The vassal was told that the king himself commanded the gates of heaven. The vassal believed.

"Another king, upon hearing this, had a better idea. He drugged his vassals, and when they awoke they were rowing on a battleship, whips cracking into their backs, and the terrible groan of sea battles overhead. When the vassal regained consciousness, torturers dumped him broken before the throne. This king claimed to be the devil himself, capable of throwing the disobedient into hell on a whim. The vassal trembled in fear before his king."


The man in the mountain notices my discomfort. He gestures gracefully with his palm. I stand. I stomp the earth to get feeling back in my legs. I stand there, and feel like an idiot with my knees bent to let the blood flow back into my legs. I thank him.

He lights a stick of incense. The room smells like sandalwood. He asks me why I came to his mountain.

I tell him I'm looking for peace.

Doctors down in the valley told me that I was going to die soon. I had tried everything under the sun. My hair fell out, grew back, and fell out again. My body dwindled into a wreck.

One of the nurses told me I had two choices. One was to die in a hospital bed slowly with no pain. The other, was to die at home in agony. I told the nurse there was a third choice.

I had heard about the man in the mountain. I left the city for the mountains. I couldn’t get far on my own. I hitched a ride with a trucker, and asked him if he was going near the top. He said that he was, and gave me a lift most of the way until his own path turned down the other side of the mountain. I couldn’t really have gotten to the top without him. He told me he knew where I was going, and that he’d taken people there before.

I asked him how he knew.

He told me it was because I looked like I was dying.

We didn’t talk much after that.

He dropped me off at the highest point. He pointed to the path to the cave. I got to the cave just fine.

I told all this to the man in the mountain. The man had no response. He sat in a lotus on this big mat of Alpaca-hair. He had all these little hand-carved statues of different kinds of Buddha around him, whittled out of mountain cedar, with every body-shape and every race written in the curve and color of the knots.

I complement the man in the mountain for his skill with a knife. He has no reply.

I pull my jacket off my back, and my flannel shirt. I wad them up together to fashion a cushion. I put them down next to the man in the mountain, and I force my legs into an uncomfortable lotus. I close my eyes.

I wait for the man to say something.

We stay that way for two days. I ignore my hunger pangs, which -- in all honesty -- hurt less than my disease.

Outside of our little cave storms roll in off the ocean, and then they roll out again. Some birds swoop into the cave, and their chirping bugs me.

Eventually, I pass out.


When I wake up, I'm in a soft hammock, outside, staring at the stars. There are so many stars, I don’t know what to think. I look up at all of them, and I imagine what it would be like to die and be reborn a star.

I try to stand, but I am still very weak from hunger and thirst. I fall out of the hammock in a heap. I look up, and I see a big thermos, with a long straw, so I can lie right there and drink. There's some protein shake stuff in there. I knew the flavor because when I was sick, sometimes, that’s the only way I could eat anything to keep it down. It tastes like wet peanut butter.

I drink it slow so I won’t throw up. I feel better. I stand up. I stagger back into the cave. My legs don’t feel right after all that sitting. The man's there, still sitting on his mat with his carved Buddhas all over the place.

I sit down again on my makeshift cushion.

He tells me about another king.


"This king was determined to conquer the whole world. He sent all his vassals through a brutal boot camp. The ones that survived formed a powerful regiment that was the cornerstone of an unstoppable army. When he returned home from conquering the world, the regiment each turned upon each other and the world fell apart. The soldiers imprisoned the king in his own mountain, and publicly worshipped him to maintain power. The king was a peasant’s puppet god.

"One of these veterans had his own mountain. He had his own vassals, and he would take his vassals to the mountain and win their loyalty with reason. They spent days exploring the kingdoms of ants, and the order of lion prides. Each vassal returned from the mountain convinced that service to their king was the most important thing in the world, and the only natural thing to do."


Then, the man in the mountain asks me if I'm ready for death.

I say that I am.

When I learned about my disease, I divorced my wife. I hired an incompetent lawyer that lost me everything. She has already married again to a banker with a kind face, and my children are in the best schools. They live in a huge house on a hill. I took what remained of my savings and invested in stocks and bonds, all to be left in trust to my children.

My wife didn't even know I was sick. It was cruel to keep her in the dark, but I wanted her to move on. Her happiness now was the result of my cruelty.

I say that I'm ready to die.

The man in the mountain says that he's dying, too. He shows me a terrible infection just under his arm where the skin's purple and oozing blood like through a sieve.

I ask the man in the mountain why he doesn’t go to the hospital.

He tells me the final story of the kings.


"There was a king in a mountain whose vassals wrapped themselves in luxury and decadence. The vassals said that they loved their king. Their love ended the moment the king was not present in the room.

"The king stripped all his vassals of their wealth and sent them down from the mountain in search of an impossible object out of myth. They could not return to the mountain until they found the fountain of youth.

"These vassals grumbled at their king. They descended into the world of despair and suffering. They staved off illnesses and bandits. They had children in the world, who were charged with the quest to return to the mountain. Eventually, no one knew exactly what they were looking for, only that their families had always been searching for something.

"Sometimes, these searchers wandered to a mysterious mountain, where an ancient wizard was said to hold many mysteries in his luxurious palaces. The wanderers asked the mighty wizard for help on their quest. The wizard revealed himself. He told them that they had found what they had always sought. He shared the water of the fountain of youth. The king had always owned this mythic fountain in his mountain caverns.

"These bedraggled wanderers were grateful for the luxury of the mountain, and they loved their king with all their heart for sparing them from the world of suffering and death. They feasted in his honor each night.

"Eventually, they forgot why they were feasting after the passing of the years. Then, they forgot why they loved their king."


The man in the mountain asks me why I came to his mountain.

I tell him that I'm unafraid of death, but I wish to die in peace, here on the man’s mountain, searching for God.

The man in the mountain says nothing. He closes his eyes again.

I imitate him. Storms come, and leave. My hunger subsides. My thirst dies away into a vague longing. My body stops hurting. My skin feels no winds. The sounds of the mountain mark the passage of day and night outside our cave.

I awake from the reverie when I realize a traveler has entered the cave. I stand up slowly. I stretch my neck. I say nothing to the new traveler. I look around for the man in the mountain on his mat. In his place, I see a small cedar carving of a new gaunt Buddha on the man's small rug. I motion to the new traveler to wait.

I search around the cave for the man in the mountain. In the back of the cave, a little fresh water trickles in from somewhere deep below the mountain. It tastes vaguely like peanut butter. I drink deep. I clutch at my sides while I drank, feeling the blood there. The disease has reached the edge of my skin. I don’t have long.

I take my place in the cave as the man in the mountain. I tell the traveler the first story of the kings.

I understand now. The mountain was never meant to be a birthright.

After I lead the traveler through the final story of the kings, I leave the cave. I carve my foolish image out of a block of cedar with this old knife I find near the well.

I wander into the wilds of the mountain, tears streaming down my face. My stomach hurts so much. I have to stop every few steps and crawl a little, because I can’t stand up when my stomach hurts too much. I leave a trail of blood behind me, dribbling out from the legs of my pants. I’m bleeding more and more like I’m about to die.

I take a stick. I scratch my story into these huge stones, written with the blood of my own disease.

When it rains, I know the blood will run to nothing.

And that’s fine.

Monday, October 13, 2008

hunting for my laptop's plug...

I'm laying traps all over my apartment for the missing laptop wire and wall plug.

I've got little batteries strapped to mouse catchers, and fly paper wrapped all over the wall outlets.

That slippery, slithery little thing will not escape my apartment, wherein it disappeared.

I'm at the library, on-line, waiting for my traps to work so I can go home and plug my computer in again.

If you see it before I do, let me know. I've got a book to finish up, you know.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

अर्घ! फोर्गोत my प्लुग!

Argh! I forgot my plug!

I'm almost out of time, already!

I was going to post something so awesome, too. It will have to wait until tomorrow, alas!








Saturday, October 11, 2008

literacy shifts of yore

By the by, remembered something interesting in our literacy discussions.

It used to be, people read aloud - always aloud. No silent contemplation at all.

Picked this factoid up from St. Augustine, circa 390, illuminated in depth courtesy of *this source*

Eyes scanning the page, tongue held still: that is exactly how I would describe a reader today, sitting with a book in a cafe across from the Church of St. Ambrose in Milan, reading, perhaps, Saint Augustine's Confessions. Like Ambrose, the reader has become deaf and blind to the world, to the passing crowds, to the chalky flesh-coloured facades of the buildings. Nobody seems to notice a concentrating reader: withdrawn, intent, the reader becomes commonplace.

To Augustine, however, such reading manners seemed aufficiently strange for him to note them in his Confessions. The implication is that this method of reading, this silent perusing of the page, was in his time something out of the ordinary, and that normal reading was performed out loud. Even though instances of silent reading can be traced to earlier dates, not until the tenth century does this manner of reading become usual in the West.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Thesseus, Breaker of Promises

They say that when Thesseus was a lad, his mother told him that he would know his father if he could lift the heavy rock, and see what was hidden beneath. They say, the lad, when he came of age, found a sword.

There was no sword there. Something far more dangerous was under that rock: a god king's broken promise.

A sacrifice broken, a woman's heart destroyed, white sails forgotten, and the bastard's father broken in grief when he should have felt great joy... All of these things came not from the arrogant, selfish hero Thesseus. They came from the weak, uncertain boy who wished to follow his word, but the broken promise he had found hung around his neck like a black anchor.

A curse is a simple thing: "Make a promise," said Media, when her place at the king's side was lost "and all your promises will be broekn by your own fate." And even this was not her curse. She merely pointed to the thing that had been below the rock.

Once upon a time, a god king fell in love with a beautiful shepherd girl. He broke his word. His son lived on, breaking promises one by one.

Thesseus, Breaker of Promises.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

post-literate society rant...

I think we are gently drifting into a post-literate society, here in America.

People don't know how to read anymore. They know how to "scan". It is similar to reading, but much faster, and much less comprehensive.

Look at it this way:

Students in school learn to pass reading tests, that are timed. They have to quickly acquire the data needed to plug into the multiple-choice field, lest they get held back a grade. Teachers teach towards the tests because, at the end of the day, therein lies their paycheck and school funding.

Employees are always urged to think and speak in quick, sharp bullet-points. Get to the point! The CEO is busy! The manager doesn't have time! Hurry! Hurry! No illumination! No elucidation! The meeting is only ten minutes long!

After a long day at work crafting bullet-points, reading bullet-points, and surroudning oneself with bullet-points, the average employee does not wish to think very hard with their entertainment choices.

Oddly enough, they zone out to things like "The Sopranoes" or "Rome" or "Seinfeld" or "Family Guy" which are just as dense, symbolic, metaphoric, and epically artistic as any written tome. Basically, the only difference is using a visual language instead of a written language.

The urge to fiction is fed in a different form, these days.

In books, what actually sells well? Fleshed out outlines, with happy endings. YA books that are designed for readers with no attention span. Crime thriller soap operas designed for readers who want to be shocked and wowed and spoonfed legal thriller action, not to dazzling, insightful prose.

People don't read websites. They scan them, scrolling down the page.

In the age of the internet, we don't really read anymore. We scan the page. We scan the newspaper. We scan books, too. The books you can scan are the ones that sell better than the rest, mostly.

Our culture just don't read anymore, really. We live in a post-literate society. The few, the proud, the readers hang on as best we can, but we are a shrinking minority of the population. Most people just don't spare the time, or choose to ingest their art in theatrical TV drama.

I think, as well, that this is related to the explosion of people who want to be writers. Our culture, that doesn't read anymore, does not understand, in general, the intellectual difference between "scanning" and "reading". Anyone can think to themselves that they can create a scannable document that passes for a story. With our culture what it is, that means many will try their hand and strive to make it as a scribller of fictions.

Our culture is one that values hard-work, "busy"-ness, and a blue collar ethic that teaches anyone can do anything if they work hard enough. Thus, anyone can - by our cultural code - work hard enough and get out enough queries and roll up those sleeves to create the prose that sells.

Yet, not everyone can be a concert pianist. Everyone can learn to play the piano - just as everyone can learn grammar and spelling and the basics of story-telling. However, the natural talents and skills that lead to a concert pianist require a cosmic accident of DNA, cultural gifts, and holy gifts. Not everyone can be a writer.

Sorry, them's the breaks. Frankly, why would you want to be one? We live in a post-literate society. Go learn how to be a director or producer or something. Replace NaNoWriMo with "National Movie Making Month".

They pay much better. Promise.

This rant courtesy of the sad knowledge that there are no independent bookstores within 200 miles of my location, including multiple major urban centers like Fort Worth, Dallas, Weatherford and Waco. That, and Greg Frost's little essay about the Borders fiasco regarding "Lord Tophet" and the Nobel Committee's rant combined together in my head.

Got me thinking about what it means to be a writer in this country.

Anyway, just another reason to move to a nation that values reading books. For instance, I hear in the Netherlands that the government actually gives away one book for a month every year, to promote literature in the Dutch language.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

favorite books so far...

i have been reading many, many books this year - most of them novels.

i just thought i'd list out a few of the ones i liked the best, because otherwise i am exceptionally occupied in something else, entirely, that i will tell you about much later.

some of these have showed up recommended by me before, some haven't. i bet i'll come across some more great tomes of glory as the weeks progres...

(and, one I read for the first time this year that I've been considering re-reading after the Jamil Nasir book... If I were doing a thesis in literature right now, I'd probably look at the different ways sci-fi and fantasy handle alternate universes as a vehicle towards God, a theme apparent in a couple of the books above. Jamil's writing reminds me very much of Stanislaw Lem, while Walter Jon Williams writing reminds me very much of Moorcock's multiverse adventures. Michael Cisco writes only like Michael Cisco, and no one else.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Michelle's FenCon Photos, including images of ME!

Look, people in costumes! (I'm dressed as an adult.)

Is it a costume? Or, is it just a passion for fashion?

"Hush," I said, "Your other face is trying to talk. Hm. You feel kind of squishy. I may need to wash my hands later. Yes. Wash hands. Okay, go on, other head."

Oddly enough, this fine gentleman won a "Best Hall Costume" Award in this, his casual everyday clothing.

Again, costume, or passion for fashion?

Thank you Michelle.

(Notice, Michelle did not include any picture of herself.

Monday, October 6, 2008

photos of fencon costumery, courtesy of misty boldish

FenCon has some really nifty costumes. I've fed all of Misty Boldish's photos into a FlickR stream, so you can see them all, with Misty's permission.

^Flickr Stream location^

Sunday, October 5, 2008

and... we're back!

Just back from the Dead Dog Party after FenCon...

Good times. Good times.

Now, if only Michelle would e-mail me the pictures.

हे मिचेल्ले!

Hey Michelle! Send me the pictures!

(Still at FenCon. Um... Gotta go.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Jay Lake is a real funny guy.

Also, volunteers are awesome.

Also, and this is for you Tim Miller, "Today I'm going to FenCon! I'd like to thank FenCon!"

Peace out, and see ya later, sometime soon.

Friday, October 3, 2008


yesterday at the museum (where I was working for TWELVE LONG HOURS... More on that in a minute...) a girl wearing a Tri-Delta Sorority Shirt, indicating that she was a recruiter for her sorority, came into the museum to do a homework assignment for some art class or somesuch wherein she was required to attend an art exhibit and answer questions about the exhibit.

She came up to me, early in the exhibit, and asked me if I could help her understand this word. She had circled a word on the question sheet, because she did not know what that word meant. I looked at the word. I blinked. Apparently, this non-freshman did not understand the word "RATIONALLY".

I shuddered inside. Important statement: I mention her sorirty not to decry sorority girls. I know many smart sorority girls. I mention it for two reasons. 1) Tri-Delta needs a book club. Like now. If you know any Tri-Deltas ure them to start a mandatory book club. Wow. Rationally, I can think of no reason why a non-Frehhman would not realize what the word "rationally: means. 2) I mention her sorority because wearing a recruiter shirt means she wasn't a Freshman. She was at least a Sophomore or Junior. Or worse: a Senior. With no knolwledge of this word.


Then, she bated her pretty little eyes at me, and cocked her pretty little head, and asked me if I could help her understand her questions because she wanted me to explain them for her (i.e. do her homework for her...).


I pointed her to all the signs everywhere, because they would answer all her questions for her. Of course, you'd have to read and interpret the words to achieve that. I understand why that might be a challenge.

It was suggested by others that maybe she was hitting on me. Which is, to me, even sadder. Why would pretending to be a defenseless idiot attract a mate? That is not attractive. That's pathetic.


I know sorority girls that aren't dumb, clingy moochers. For instance, Lola.

Happy Birthday Lola! I hope you had a great night. I hope you are drinking rationally to prevent hangovers and waking up in places you don't know - like the zoo! or the bathroom of an IHOP! - with people that you can't recognize.

J.P. Morgan threw a big party last night at the museum. I was there until the wee hours. You know the bill in 1999 that had a record number of lobbyists that destroyed our housing market and economy? Yeah, JP lobbied hard for it with record amounts of money. Also, Texas Republicans are leading the charge against the bailout package. Which means, to me, that many of the people I saw at the museum last night are celebrating at such an ironic moment. They destroyed the world economy to promote their own bank. They threw a party at the tense apex. They drank, ate caviar, and meandered priceless masterpieces with wives and daughters.

Were they the men that bought the congressmen that killed the bailout? I don't know. I don't know.

I smiled for hours into the dark, waiting for these well-dressed bankers to slowly work their way through their feast, thear liquor, their music, their art.

And me? All the time I was there, women looked down their noses at me, because I am only a security guard. Men mostly ignored any of my requests to keep their hands away from the art. I recall three separate occasions where I was given a look of derision and disgust for being a security guard, right there, at the edge of their party, looking at them, by three women in three different gold dresses, with embroidery shaped like precious coins.

Today, and all weekend, I will be at FenCon, and enjoying the company of fine fandom folks. I will FenCon my disgust away.

Fen strong. Fen true.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

file under: too many story ideas, not enough time...

Abandoned Fragment of a Clone

We don’t have to colonize other planets. Our clones do it for us. We train for months and years to prepare for our landing on the foreign world. We scan our brains, right then, at the peak of our interplanetary colonization knowledge. We dump our DNA into the machines, with our scanned brains.
We don’t even need that large of a ship. Really, you only genuinely need one tank for the cloning. You pack two or three tanks – in case one breaks – but really the ship we send is smaller than a space shuttle. The machines do all the work. Mostly, what you need is compressed air. In space, compressed air gives you the course corrections you need when the gravity of a stray asteroid pulls you a few inches away from your desired vector. Thus, the computer can aim carefully at the destination planet or moon. The ship will slip into orbit, and start making clones.
First, a mechanic. Second, a pilot. Third, a co-pilot.
The mechanic’s job is to make sure nothing is broken. He or she will monitor the tanks while more clones emerge, wet and glistening and terrified from the machine. The pilots will prepare for their landing at a spot chosen for its optimal colonization potential.
So it takes centuries to reach another planet. So what? Clones can wait in their mechanical Guff. They won’t notice a thing. They won’t get bored, or hungry, or worry about hull breeches.
If something happens to the ship, it isn’t really much of a loss. The ship isn’t that large. The clones aren’t born, yet, to be lost.
The other thing a mechanic does, while the pilots work on their perfect landing, is send back a signal to the homeworld. We’ve arrived.
Then, after landfall, the co-pilot is the one who has a moment to send back a signal. We’ve landed.
The training that the clones learned works, or not. Most people only get to send out a clone to one planet. Some – with rare genes or rare abilities – get to go to two or three.
The interplanetary colonization classes, or as the kids call them your ‘I.C. Core’ are all part of the core curriculum in college. If you pass – and passing is a requirement for graduation – you get your brain scanned upon graduation.
The best thing to do, according to the advisers, was to space out your I.C. Core throughout your major, so your clone would not have spend two years drinking and putting on Shakespearian plays with the Theatre Department between their last geological surveying course.
The mechanic path is the worst. It’s very selective. It takes five years of strict science and engineering. It’s a degree unto itself. Of course, after you graduate, you have a solid foundation in cloning and aeronautical engineering. They always make good money when they graduate.
We graduated. We had our brains scanned. My I.C. Core was in botanical engineering. I always liked gardening. When I graduated, I got a job teaching Algebra in a local elementary school. I saved up my money to buy a botanical fabricator. I filled my apartment with long vines. I shaped the branches of the vine into soft, hammock-like furniture.
When the woman who would become my wife first saw my furniture, she laughed and clapped her hands. She leaped onto the couch, and plucked a flower from a pillow, to wear in her hair.
Her I.C. Core was in Atmospherics. Later on, she took my flower pillows and turned them into her personal perfume.
We wondered – everyone did – about our clones, floating in space. We checked the progress of our ships sometimes, too. Everyone did. When we graduate, we watch for news of lift-off. We watch videos of our ship swooping around the planets for the gravity slingshot that would propel them past the Oort cloud in a dash.
After that, life moved on down here, on Earth.
I got married. My wife’s ship was destined for the habitable moons of a gas giant below a red dwarf. Mine was off to a planet like earth before the bacteria learned to produce oxygen among the protoplasmic volcanoes. We didn’t really check that often on our clones. We had you children, now. We had jobs and children and pets. Sometimes, we logged in and took a peek. Of course we did. Our clone had made it out into the open, empty places. It would be decades before any passing thing might loom in its sky.
We forget about them. Why shouldn’t we? They were just time capsules shooting through the night sky. We lived down here. We loved down here. We died down here.
When you get depressed – real depressed – that’s when you log in and check on your clone. When my wife left me after the affair, and my children weren’t speaking to me, yet. I logged in every day. I wished a better life for him.
I tried to build furniture with my botanical fabricator. My wife had taken all the furniture with her when she left me – we had normal furniture for years by then, not plants – and I needed to make furniture, anyway.
I couldn’t remember the art of it. I made malformed footstools. The hammock died within hours of birth. The couch was too weak to hold a man on the left side. The flowers of the pillows were small, and sticky, and wouldn’t last the night.
I logged in. I watched the latest blip on the starcharts, where my clone soared through the dark, to a new world, a new love, a new career.
It’s what I was thinking about when I shot myself.



I will likely return to this little journal sketch and flesh it out somewhere in space, or earth, or wherever. Some fine day. Later on. Much later on. Next year, maybe?

I don't need anyone else's story ideas. I've got plenty already.

hey guys and gals, can you do me a favor?

I could really use a MacArthur Genius Grant. Can you start a big web campaign to help me win one.

You know, with - like - Flash animation and YouTube videos and viral marketing stuff.

Yeah. Also, I could really use it by November.

Hello, Mr. MacArthur? Hello?

Hm. I hope that worked.