Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

MAZE is coming...

So, I got an offer on a new book, and - pending contract and check clearing - it looks like MAZE will be seeing the light of day.

Mosaic novels have long fascinated me since the days I discovered SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, THE BRIDGE TO SAN LUIS REY, and CITY OF SAINTS AND MADMEN, and started putting them together in my mind, thematically.

Also, I thought about living in THE LABYRINTH, and how I would never get to the center, and if I did, I would never make it home. I'd have to find other survivors, and make the best life I could inside the dangerous, unknowable place.

I was thinking how I'd have kids, and they'd live there, too. I was thinking how we'd do the best we could, and it probably wouldn't be enough.

Then, I was thinking of how the place would deal with us, intruders in an ecosystem we don't understand.

Then, I went to my ten-year high school reunion, came home, and had a vivid dream about a maze, and getting trapped there, and the monster born from my own lung.

Which is to say, this is a strange book, and interstitial, and it looks like my bit of surrealist sci-fi+fantasy+horror+coming-of-age+? mosaic piece has found a good home.

I expect there's going to be giveaways, when the time comes, of free .pdfs and paperbacks. If you want review copies, all I ask is that you drop me a line at my e-mail address, and promise to post a review if you like it. It'll be a while, yet, until the time is right for that, but if you e-mail me now, I'll know you're one of the folks who read this entry, months before it was cool to be reading my blog and talking about books and mosaics and mazes. I'll make a list. I'll check it twice.

Blast the signal if you wanna.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nemean Lion

I was his first labor for a reason. He wasn't strong. He was short, with thin arms, and dirty teeth, and ragged clothes. He looked like a starving beggar. He bowed before me. He warned me that he was the son of a God, and if I did not do as he asked he would destroy me. He told me that I was to leave my canyon forever, flee to the south and farther.

I roared. I devoured the little man, flesh and bone.

For days, I had terrible headaches, like someone screaming in my ear all the time. My insides ached like they were being remade. I didn't feel like myself, at all. I felt like I was dying. I was poisoned and dying. I crawled down from the mountain, looking for a wise woman to ease my pains. I found Hera, there, waiting for us. She called me by a name I had never known.

I rose up to two legs. I had hands strong as steel and a face in my mouth with ragged teeth.

I had eaten the divine, yet the divine had eaten me. The paradox of heaven is creation out of entropy and decay. This, I learned too late.

"Heracles," she had said. "Son of the Gods. My glory, now. Slayer of the Nemean Lion."

I fought back. I roared when I could. I struggled against my new self. I watched through my own eyes while I become something else, until even that sight failed me, and I was dead, though my body lived on.

All that was done after my destruction - all that was saved – was of a young god wrestling with an old lion: monster and hero of one flesh.

Heracles, hero of strength and lust and glorious roars, was born of my hunger, my pride, and my death.

Monday, February 22, 2010

i can feel his whimsy but i cannot feel his consciousness; and some poetry

went to the whitespace gallery for a reading the other night, where i heard sabrina orah mark for the first time. in white space, we walked in to an old carriage house with white panels on the brick walls. The art was splashes of color and mood in bends, swirls and curls. it was blah art - arty art, where an explanation is required for apreciation. apparently it was selling well, but i thought it was just playfulness without a depth. i asked a___ which one was her favorite squiggle, then realized i had better be nice because the drunk guy that was talking with us might be the artist. we sat in chairs and relaxed while sabrina orah mark took the stage.

dim the lights, still the music, etc.

Sabrina Orah Mark came after a nonsensical introduction, and I was expecting an evening of more pretension than depth. I was surprised to experience the opposite - more depth than pretension - in the poetry, which I enjoyed immensely.

the poetry was whimsical and solid. it was the kind of poetry you could read to a child to make them laugh and read to a grandmother to make her nod and try not to weep at what it means to "b". good stuff. i picked up a copy of "the babies" and can recommend you do the same if you're into surreal prose poetry. if there was a motto to take away from all this stuff she read it would be her own favorite fortune cookie: "whatever doesn't kill you makes you funnier."



(whitespace)

Friday, February 19, 2010

The thing I love about this video is that there really will come a day when electropoppunkdancery will be playing in the nursing home for us old-timey survivors of the two thousand aughts, and we'll be dancing like it's 2005, and the DJ will have dentures and the mixing software will be some kind of over-the-counter app that blasts straight into the brain because our hearing aids are shit and we'll be in there, chewing our protein cake, and determined to be hip forever and ever and ever, until the day we can't boogie in our walkers because our third hip replacement is designed to keep us from breaking ourselves, again.



Anybody else wanna dance?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

After "Slapstick" by Kurt Vonnegut

In fiction, I am always interested in what I refer to as "bookends". I like fiction that begins with one scene or moment or idea, and returns to that idea again to provide closure to the story. When I read "Slapstick", I got that feeling of a bookended narrative despite the difference in tone, subject matter, and characters involved in the two sections.

The comically mournful listed anecdote after anecdote about the Vonnegut family. The end of the book, with the King of Manhatten's granddaughter, was a surprising appearance of a fairy tale: a young woman, convinced she is a princess of the far away King of Candlesticks, escapes an abusive brothel, and quests to her mysterious grandfather, determined to find her happily ever after which - in the story - seems like something the poor girl achieved. How did these two elements of great family tragi-comedy and fairy tale create the bookend experience I felt when I read the story? I suspect the answer to my own question lies in the symbolic content of the different sections.



` The novel operates like a reverse adumbration of the prologue. The "story" of the prologue, of family vignettes building to a climax when the sister's kids are orphaned parallels the rest of the novels treatment of the family of the final President of the USA. Thus, in the Prologue, we are explicitly told we are about to read an autobiographical story - the most autobiographical story Vonnegut ever wrote. Then, Vonnegut gives us samplings from his life and others to show us the story he is about to tell. The parallels are not immediately apparent, but the theme of siblings closer than spouses, and orphaned children searching for a home are well-established in the early prologue.

When those elements are expanded across a continent, the President runs for office on a ticket rooted in the creation of adopted families in the aftermath of losing his sister. Though the content is wildly different, the subtext is the same in this larger narrative. Just like in Vonnegut's life, this attempt of pulling a family together is broken. Vonnegut's adopted son asks his father, as the son is about to leave for college as an adult, forever, for a hug. The father had never hugged his own adopted son. In the zany, machine-made families, some of the people are able to pull together into communities that almost make it, while most fail with the fall of America.

Still, in the end, the granddaughter shows up at her grandfather's house, candle in hand, full of hope in a better life with someone who will take her in, care for her, and never abuse her like her former guardian, the King of Milwaukee. Still, in the simple hearts, beats an urge to family. Her moment of hope closes a book that is otherwise bleak and morose. This effectively takes the themes established in the beginning, during the prologue, and reverses the emotional tone, like two bookends that mirror each other on a shelf.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting too many hits....

I was getting too many page hits on something I had posted as an invitation for information. I got the information I needed to make my decision on something, and I see no reason to leave the post up when it only seems to be a spark for internet fire and brimstone.

Which, I absolutely do not want to be involved with. At all.

Post has been deleted, and I have nothing more to say on the matter.

Question About Positive Change Over Interwebs

Can anyone think of an example where something changed over the internet because of positive and happy energy instead of the #fail of fires and brimstones and everyone watching from the sidelines with popcorn waiting for the brilliant curmudgeons of righteousness to flagellate the hapless?

Hunter S Thompson on Conan O'Brien

Found courtesy of me digging around for Conan's wasting money clips.


Hunter S. Thompson on Conan O'Brien 2003-02-06

Just an outline | MySpace Video


Watching this makes me sad that he was never on Oprah Winfrey.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Life Never Stops For Anyone

My first thought was she was going to be killing herself. That's what people used to do, you know, when these sorts of things happened. They stood on bridges and leaned over the edge and waited for a crowd to gather, or they locked themselves in bathrooms and stared at the red ribbons in the warm bathtub. These days you never knew what people would do - fly to Paris, start a fire, or post angry messages to anonymous message boards. Anyway, my first thought was she was going to kill herself.

My second thought was maybe she was going to try to tough it out, get help and get on with her life as if nothing happened - as if this gaping wound inside of her was no worse than a car that leaked a little oil and you had to put a bottle of oil in it once a week and you had to put kitty litter in the garage to soak up all the leaking, which meant, in her case, that she had to sleep with tissues near the bed in case she woke up crying. Maybe she was that kind of woman, who would just move on and smile all day long and, in the night, when darkness brings out all the old fears and old pains and only a lover would have to consider it - then it would bubble back up to the surface.

My third thought was maybe times have changed, and maybe this isn't such a thing anymore that someone should feel anything about it. Maybe she always knew - deep down - that this was the way things were supposed to be - like a trapeze artist falling and falling without a net, smiling the whole time because she knew the audience was watching her fall and they all expected it to be some part of the act and it has become part of the act - the most memorable part - that the audience will carry with them forever.

And by my fourth thought, she was pouring down her martini. She was leaving money on the counter for the bartender.

-Where are you going, babe?

-Home.

-Do you need me...? Do you...?

-It happens. It's not your fault. Don't worry, okay?

My fifth thought was I was worried. How could I not worry?

-Are you going to be okay?

She shrugged.

-Maybe. Will you be okay?

-No.

-Too bad. These things happen. Try to get some sleep.

The sixth thought I had, was that I should probably follow her to see what happens next. I didn't bother finishing my drink. I left my money on the counter in a rush and chased after her, into the street. A taxi cab was already there, and a driver with the whitest skin I had even seen in my life - white as an albino, but with dark black hair - was helping her into the cab. She could barely walk.

-Wait!

She looked up. She shook her head.

-It is what it is. Go home. Get some sleep.

The cab driver, oblivious to us, smiled. He asked me if I needed a ride home, too. He asked if we'd be sharing a cab.

-We're getting a divorce.

He didn't understand that it meant I didn't want to ride the cab. He asked me if I was heading in the same direction, because we could save money if we did that.

-He has a car. He drove me. I won't be going back with him. Let's go.

The man with the whitest skin I had ever seen in my life got into the car. He revved the engine and waved at me. I waved to him. I didn't wave to her.

My seventh thought was how life never stops for anyone. Life never stops for anyone. I'd get up in the morning and the cab driver would get up in the morning and she would get up in the morning and everyone of us in all the world would get up in the morning. Everybody knows that life never stops for anyone.

The eighth thing I thought was there was a time when life stopped for people - when radios killed all sound for a long minute when John Lennon died, and whole stadiums stood up and help still and listened for the singer in the long pause before the anthem and everybody was listening and waiting and stopped and no one was yelling at their kid or sipping their beer or whispering to the beautiful girl that came with them to the ball game because she had a crush on the catcher and she laughed at the end of the anthem because the opera singer looked so silly on the field, in his tuxedo, on a hot summer night, and she couldn't tell you exactly why, and you didn't need to know why she felt that way. You just saw her laughing, and your heart skipped a beat, and life had stopped for one moment and all the crowd and all the ballplayers and all the mosquitos swarming the stadium lights and every cloud in the sky took a breath like that moment just before the opera singer opened his throat with song.

The ninth thing you thought about was where you were going to sleep tonight, and your car seemed the best place because it was in your name, only, and it didn't cost anything, and you could drive to a rest stop and park at the edges where you can sleep in your car and no one will say anything because they're too busy rushing in and out of their own cars, back to the highways and byways and all the places they need to hurry at 70 miles per hour and more because life never stops for anyone.

And when you get to Cincinnati, try to hold your head up high. No matter what she does tonight, or how she takes it, just try to hold your head up high.

***

(...the fragment ends here and fades into another moment of prose... i don't know where it began, or where it was going, but I know it never stopped. Trains leaving stations. I have too many tickets, and too many trains. I can't ride them all.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I have discovered a whole, creepy sub-sub-culture

Wow. Did you know about all the Lego Slave Leia Dance Videos that exist in the world? Let me just whet your whistle here with some of the better ones:

Right, so Legos aren't exactly the first thing you think of when you think of sexy slave Leia dancing for your pleasure, right? There's only so much you can do with boxy, blocky Lego figures in stop motion, right? Let's crack the box of Lego Star Wars, the video game, to give it a little more bounce set to "Hey Baby" from No Doubt. (Alas, this video disables embedding, but you've GOT TO SEE THAT to get the full, creepy effect... Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAEsrwQ_CIk

Oh, it only gets worse from here...



And...



Wow. Just wow.

Let's not stop here. No, let's go LIVE ACTION!



Right. The Europeans will save us with their high culture, and lack of Lego Leia Slave Girl Fetish. Will you guys show these folks how to do Lego Videos?



Thank you, LegoNumaNuma. That is how it's mother-f***in' done, right there.

I think we need one more to show the world how things are properly done with the Lego music videos:



Thank you, and good night!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Abandoned Fragments of Other Worlds...

How could she be alive? My daughter was in the back yard as if she hadn't died. She was playing on a swing set as if she hadn't died. She was singing a song as if she hadn't died. My wife was cleaning the dishes, looking out over the yard as if it was perfectly normal for our daughter to be not dead, to be not struck by a train - to be alive and playing in the yard.

"Honey," I said.

"Yeah, baby?"

"Nothing," I said. "Nevermind."

"What?"

"Just... Don't worry about it."

I had been sweeping up the mess in the bedroom where my wife had torn apart our pillows. She had been so angry that she had tried to burn down the house. I had stopped her. Then, when I cleaned up that mess, I found the pillows. I had swept the pillows up. I had put all the feathers into the trash. I had taken the trash into the back yard, behind the shed. I came back in the house, and gone into her bedroom to fall into her pile of stuffed animals. When I came out, I went to the bathroom. I washed my face in cold water and soap. I went to the basement to run the trains around the tracks in a perfect, serene world, where she had never been so fascinated by my trains, never climbed the back fence and gone to the tracks at the edge of the street, and never tried to climb on board a train like a hobo. I was in the basement, at my train set. I heard her voice in the air and thought I had lost my mind. I went upstairs. It really was her - my beautiful daughter - playing in the yard and singing, and my wife was washing the dishes like there was no accident.

My daughter was singing in the yard, on a swing set that I had never built for her. My wife was doing the dishes, and happy.

Do not take chances, I said to myself. Do not look upon a miracle and doubt. Praise whatever power brought you here into this world.

At dinner, I saw other things that were different.

My wife placed the salt and pepper shaker on the wrong side of the table, away from her left hand. I had watched her eat for eight years, and she only ever picked up the salt and pepper with her left hand. My daughter, who had always preferred the seat where she could see out the window and watch squirrels. Tonight, she sat on the other side of the table, where she could watch the television. The television was on, which was against the rules. Except, it wasn't against the rules. We were watching cartoons.

Little differences, of course, meant nothing to me. My daughter was alive.

However I came to this place, I had to find a way to remain here forever.

At night, when everyone was asleep I went to the basement, and found a model trainset. The trains rolled over the hills someone had made with their own hands. I unplugged the power. I turned off the lights. I covered it with a tarp and considered how I could destroy it, the way my wife had tried to destroy it. She had tried to set fire to mine before I had swept up the pillows. It was all I could think to do, though it could have been anything or nothing that brought me here.

Somewhere in my house, I took a step upon a path I did not know into a different house. There is a house somewhere, and my wife is alone and believes I walked away forever.

But, in this world there should be another me, who does not know his daughter died in the shed behind the house. Perhaps he stepped into the world I left behind, or another far worse.

I feel sorry for him, wherever he is. I hope my other self finds happiness and peace in his life.

There are worlds.

Scientists are very good at describing things they can reproduce. This experience is not conducive to laboratories. I wonder, in the morning, if this happens all the time, to all sorts of people, and no one wants to talk about it because they're afraid of losing it - if they even notice.

I keep an eye on her, all the time. I set up webcams to watch from my desk at work in an open browser window. I watch her all the time, to keep her here. I don't know what else to do, or if it works.

Someday, no one will ever lose the one they love. They'll just move into a new world, where the one they love is still alive.

I slip into her room when she's sleeping and watch her breathe. I spend every weekend with her. I come home from work and seek her out. She is still here. She still remembers me, and she still loves me.

Nobody's saying anything. Nobody seems to notice that I'm the wrong father.

To whomever I stepped over when I came here, I have stolen your life, and I'm sorry, but I will never give it up.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oh, yeah, my thing about EVE On-Line is up at the Apex Blog:

"I’ve played approximately two days worth of EVE On-line. I had played it a little of it in the past, but it has been a while, and I wanted to get it back under my fingers before writing about it here.

Have you ever killed someone over a dull, gray rock? Ever smash your car into someone’s car just to get at the bags of groceries in their trunk? That’s Eve, in a nutshell."

Read the rest of it: HERE

http://www.apexbookcompany.com/blog/2010/02/the-collectors-narrative/

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Evidence That Authors Are The Least Important Part Of Books

In the eyes of booksellers and distributors, it seems that authors are not important, because our copyright is apparently not really under our control if it is bad for business, and it seems our careers can get the shaft by devastating the sales figures companies use as a blind guide to buying future books in the name of corporate pissing matches, or embrace publishing models that exploit authors and dilute the quality of the words on printed pages.

Nice to know where we stand in the world, considering how our imaginations, sweat, dreams, lost sleep, destroyed health, broken relationships, lost time, are the engines of creation that drive this entire multi-billion dollar industry. Are we nothing but cattle to the meat packagers?

I know editors don't believe that, and every publishing house's marketer or sales staffer or assistant I met was a true believer in the truth of books, but I wonder if everyone else in the supply chain has lost touch with the heart of what a book means to people until it gets through to the individual bookseller in the bookstore, another true believer that gets it, who earns near minimum wage in shitty retail conditions for the privilege of working in the stacks with something they love.

I hope the folks in-between wake up.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Miracles

The scientific method is a powerful tool for the unraveling of the universe's mysteries. Once developed it rocketed our species to the moon and back, through the void that none could pass in safety and freedom by nature alone.

But, what will come next, after the scientific method?

Science has limitations. In "Fragments of a Hologram Rose", William Gibson wrote about this scientist that could enter a laboratory and, for whatever reason, make this thing work that no one else could make work. This happens every day. Things work that are not supposed to work. Things don't work that are supposed to work. Uncontrollable factors are tossed about - human error, and mistakes in the machinery, and unknown breakdowns in the system. Yet, these unpublished results exist, whether we can read about them in journals or not. Science is no good at outliers. Scientific method says they are to be cut from the charts and graphs. Anomalous things have no place in science. Miracles are still relegated to the realm of faith.

Yet, statistically unlikely things happen all the time. On a large enough time scale, anything that is possible is likely to happen. On an infinite time scale, anything that could possibly happen will happen, eventually.

I ask you, then, what sort of tool could come after the scientific method? How will we be able to measure and harness the unpredictable and miraculous?

Just kind of what I happen to think about, late at night.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Short Story: "The Lady or the Tiger" up at Apex Magazine

[quote]
Re-imagined from a tale by Frank Stockton, 1882

Many years ago, when I was a boy of only ten, I was in a terrible crash on the cliffs south of Io Town, where nights are a deep tundra freeze and afternoons are as hot as a summer on the long plains. Even now, I close my eyes and I can still see Sheila’s face just before she was crushed under two thick layers of plasteel.

I had watched her half of the flyer cracking away from mine, and rolling on top of her.

And collapsing.

On top of her.

Her scream disappeared from the icy air so fast, the only way I knew it had been real was the echo of it, down the canyons, where a small avalanche threw rocks and snow down to the stream.
[/quote]

Go there to read the whole thing

http://www.apexbookcompany.com/blog/2010/02/short-fiction-the-lady-or-the-tiger-by-j-m-mcdermott-2/

Surrender

Most of us are up early in the morning - we scribbling types. Right now, it's 4:54 AM and I woke up, got some exercise, and now I'm sipping coffee and trying to be a genius author.

Most of us that got daylight gigs do exactly this. Alarm goes off, and we're hard at work, bleary-eyed, and a little exhausted at the end of the week.

All this hard work, and when do we have time to do the reading we need to do just to try and keep up with what we do? How many books have you read this month? Are you up on the stuff that interests you, or are you impossibly behind? Are you up on at least one subfield of the literary arts?

I'm impossibly behind. I'll never catch up. Neither will you. Surrendering to this fact - you will never read enough or know enough - one knows that now is the time to not bother following trends, or worrying on the various subfields. Now, at 4 AM, instead focus on exactly what you want to work on, whether interesting or not to the purchasing powers of the world.

If your goal is fame and wealth and whatnot, I guess this is bad advice. But, really, if you're going to be awake at 4 AM doing anything, make it something specific to you - just for you - and f*ck anyone that wants you to make this sacrifice for a few dollar bills and a line at a bookstore signing. Do it for yourself. You've got a job, or you wouldn't be up this early doing your writing thing.

I didn't follow a trend this week. No steampunk. No space opera. No ephemereal stuff about adventurous people doing adventurous things. This week, I worked on a story about a traveling carnival, because I really like the mental image of a rickety ferris wheel rising over a long plain, lit up like Christmas, on a warm summer night. It isn't steampunk, or technopunk, or squidpunk, or anything like it. It is just the thing that interests me enough to make me think getting up at 4 AM is worth it to figure this mental image out.

(Also, a hard man is holding a halved pomegranate in his hands, offering it to you, as if in a dream. Don't eat them, though. There's definitely something dangerous about the situation.)