Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dada's Home

Edited 9-26-14: Changed "employer" to "owner" below, which is not only more correct, but more interesting.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I am now: I'm a member of an authorial conglomeration known as Cerberus, along with Dan Rabarts and Grant Stone. Cerberus' first piece of fiction is now available in issue 60 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, which you can buy here, at least for a month or so after I've posted this. Because the link refers to the latest issue, rather than issue 60, I assume the link will get you to future issues someday.

The story is called Dada (number 141 of The One-Thousand). It's dieselpunk mixed with a bit of the surreal. Set in the seventh year of an alternate World War I, the story takes place during an invasion of England by German forces. Our hero, Dada, is a robot who must rescue his kidnapped son with help from the lad's human mother, who is also Dada's employer owner. Yes, you've got it right. The story explores the role of an intelligent robotkind in a madly destructive human society. Check it out. An e-copy is only five Australian bucks, whatever that comes to. I hope it doesn't come to seven-hundred and thirty-two American dollars. It probably doesn't. That's rather specific.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Stop Making Sense Thirty Years After Everyone Else



Believe it or not, I just saw Stop Making Sense for the first time. Obviously, I was never a hardcore fan of Talking Heads, but I liked what I heard on the radio and their videos back when. But I discovered the These Things Matter podcast a couple of weeks ago and listened to their Talking Heads episode wherein they convinced me to watch the movie. They were right about it. This film is pretty incredible.

Some observations: I never realized how danceable Talking Heads music was. I know that sounds stupid, but I have to hear a whole bunch of something in a pile in order to pick up on these things. For instance, I never realized how country the Eagles were until I heard one of their "best of" tapes. I know that sounds even more stupid.

If you didn't know Talking Heads' songs were so danceable by listening, you could just watch them on stage and pick that up. I've never seen a band with so much energy, and I used to go to a lot of heavy metal concerts in a former life. Old, fat me watched this movie and said to The Boy, "If I was up there on stage, after the fifth song I'd have to say, 'I'm gonna go sit down over there. You guys finish the show without me.'" On top of the normal energy was the entertainment value of David Byrne's funky moves, which weren't spontaneous, but definitely courageous and inventive.

During a Byrne break, we got that one Tom Tom Club song, which was good fun. And speaking of the Toms, Tina Weymouth knows how to lay down a groove, y'all. She's not a flashy bass player, but she finds the pocket and swings there. It's unusual in a live show to hear the bass cranked up like it is in Stop Making Sense, but again, there's the dancey thing. If you're not a riff band, your danciness comes from the rhythm section and this band knows it. I can't really speak to Chris Frantz' drumming because I'm a former bass player and bassing is what I listen to. I know all you bass players out there are saying, "If you were a good bass player, you'd be listening to the drums!" To that I answer, I never said I was a good bass player. Ha! Tied you up with your own logic!

If you're my age and you're into Talking Heads, you've already seen this movie. But maybe you're not my age, and you thought the band was kind of okay, but never really checked them out. Go get this film watch it with some friends. Make a party of it. It's a hell of a good time. I rented the DVD, but I imagine I'll have to buy a copy now.

The Empire State Building Strikes Back!

Hey! My latest story, The Empire State Building Strikes Back! (number 119 of The One-Thousand) is available today on The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine! It's a fast-paced, crazy-ass science fiction story with lots of funny stuff. Go listen here: http://dunesteef.com/2014/09/24/episode-164-the-empire-state-building-strikes-back-by-matthew-sanborn-smith/

Let me be straight with you. I ran this story by editors at pro markets for which I thought it would be a good fit. When they all rejected me, I skipped the semi-pros and went straight to the Dunesteef. Why? Because, for them, I thought it was the perfect fit. Yes, I went for the money first. I am trying to make a buck. But you know what? Even if I could have possibly sold this story to The New Yorker, they couldn't have given me what the Dunesteef has. (It's always the Dunesteef to me. Get over it.)

None of the big markets would have given my story the audio treatment with a full cast reading, sound effects, and music. None. You might see the Dunesteef as a small market, but they give you something, with passion, that the pros won't. As they explain in the show, due to a series of mishaps, my story broke their record for the longest time on their hard drives before being podcast.  But I'm delighted with the final product. It was worth the wait.

Wolf in White Van

When I heard John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats had a novel coming out, there was no question in my mind that I'd be gobbling it up as soon as I got my hands on it. Darnielle writes the most visceral lyrics I've ever heard, with a knack for cutting right to the pain, whether emotional or physical, in just a line or two. I got what I expected from Wolf in White Van's prose by the second paragraph:

"Every other day they'd bathe me, and every time, I'd feel like it wasn't so bad for a few minutes; and then the heat would slacken the resewn flaps of my cheeks a little, and the tingling would start up, a rippling alarm traveling down confused wires."

If you figure the paragraph which precedes that one explains what's led up to that point of the narrator's life, you're no expert figurer. Answers come in time, but not all of them. There are a couple of things going on here. The telling leaps all over the story's timeline and it's meant to be disorienting. There are times the reader isn't quite sure when an event is happening or which of the other narrative strands it might be connected to. We're left to attach the pieces with little reference, perhaps echoing the reassembly of the narrator and his life after the accident that is central to the story. And centers are important here.

A little Robert Frost:

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

There are many unknowable centers in the book, from the imaginary fortress which sits right in the middle of the country and is the unachievable goal of the narrator's play-by-mail game, Trace Italian; to his motivation for the central act of the novel, which may be unknown even to him; to the unspoken feelings of so many of the characters.

It's the search for what lies in those centers that drive us on through the book and drive the characters through their inner turmoil. The answers at the core of everything are cloaked in many layers of protection, the innermost wrapping being the hardest and most inviting of them all: the apprehension of the seeker. Darnielle lays out the story so we can see the ending coming, and it's probably for this reason the last ten pages of Wolf in White Van filled me with dread.

Take a look for yourself: http://us.macmillan.com/wolfinwhitevan/johndarnielle

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Are The Cloud

Great story up at Lightspeed right now, We Are the Cloud by Sam J. Miller. You can read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/cloud/

 Many times, I don't go for stories that seem at first to under-utilize the science fictional elements within them, but the solid writing carried me through this one until it felt like the New Wave stories of yore that I used to read years ago. In many of those stories, as in this one, the characters carried the day. Too many stories that I've been reading lately show that the author is trying to create a character-driven story, but can't quite pull it off, as far as I'm concerned. Rather, it is character-driven in that many of the elements are in place, but it's not compelling as such. Sam J. Miller nailed it. I wish I knew exactly how, so I could do it too. I'll have to re-read it. You can take a look for yourself and tell me if you catch the trick.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Magic

I've loved this song for years, bought the single and B.o.B.'s album. I've loved Rivers Cuomo's music for decades. That's not why I'm posting this video here. I'm posting it because I just saw the video for the first time a few minutes ago and what happens at the 0:35 mark made me laugh out loud. Maybe it won't do it for you, especially because you're expecting something now, more especially because I've hyped it, but it's a great song you might not have heard, so when the crushing disappointment sets in at the 0:36 mark, just know that I warned you and then you can sit back and enjoy the song.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 3 Most Important Things in Life

From the beginning, I intended a secondary purpose for this blog, as I didn't expect to have posts about my story progress for you all the time. I wanted a place to turn you guys on to stuff that I really liked. Who knows? Since The One-Thousand now seems like an impossible goal unless I quit my job, that secondary purpose may become the primary.

Along those bolstered lines is my favorite essay of all time, Harlan Ellison's The 3 Most Important Things in Life, a journey through three highly entertaining episodes of his highly entertaining life. I would have spread the word earlier had I realized it was available online. You can read it here: http://harlanellison.com/iwrite/mostimp.htm 

I hope that the highly-litigious and perhaps less than internet savvy Ellison understands that I am not copying or distributing his work by linking to it. What I do, I do out of love, and the desire to turn people on to the work of one of my favorite writers.

Enjoy.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Weekend Novella

This was the plan: To write an 18,000 word first draft this weekend and write the second draft next weekend for a market that's closing to unagented submissions next Sunday night.

I've never written that much in two days. Some people can knock that out without too much trouble, but I've never been one of those. When things aren't distracting me, I'm shaking them violently and shouting, "Distract me, damn you!"

This weekend's results: An incomplete first draft of 11,496 words.

I'm not down about it, though. For me, that's a lot of work. And much of what I have worked out is great. The first two chapters, in fact, are very close to what their last drafts will be. The plot's all worked out. I've got some completed chunks of scenes, the characters are coming to life, and the major players have their arcs. Best of all, it's fun and funny, which is what I was going for from the get-go.

I probably won't have time to work on the manuscript this week, between work and Mango obligations. But I'll do what I can next weekend and if I don't have an awesome manuscript to send out next Sunday night, I'll make it awesome later and send it to someone else.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Love Or Fear

I get lost at metaphorical sea on a regular basis. I just woke up after much too little sleep over the last twenty-eight hours and I was pep-talking myself with the thought that you can either choose love or choose fear and your results will reflect your choice. This idea is ancient, not mine, and I don't consider it new-agey in that "universe provides" sort of way. I see it, instead, as a way one's subconscious mind categorizes one's possible decisions.

Anyway, I told myself this as I was washing up: "You can choose love, or you can choose fear." And then I walked back into my bedroom and saw what my uneyeglassed sight took to be an enormous freaky spider on my floor. I didn't panic, but I did say to myself, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to choose fear this time." Bending in closer to this unmoving mass, I realized it was not an enormous freaky spider, but two lizards wrapped up in each other, not getting it on, but just chilling. I'm cool with lizards. The universe threw me a softball and let me choose love after all. Now that sounds horribly new-agey, but it's just anthropomorphization. I believe the universe is unintelligent and uncaring. It feeds with the same hand it kills with and is unaware it even has a hand. The best we can do is soak the universal hand in a bowl of Palmolive (with love) and hope for the best.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Song Of Ice And Fire Fan Fiction

Chapter 1

Hodor

Hodor. Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. Hodor.

"Hodor?"

"Hodor, Hodor!"

Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor, Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor.

Hodor. Hodor. Hodor, Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.

Hodor.

(I'm sure this has been done, but I've avoided the series and the fans for years and am only now beginning the second book. Hodor.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sleep Tight!

I was tired and just packing up for bed a few minutes ago when I discovered a monstrous spider in my room, two feet from my pillow. My mattress is on the floor because I dumped what passed for a bed frame when I moved, and haven't spent the dough for a new one. The spider wasn't moving, so I grabbed a can of insecticide and a long-handled dust pan from the kitchen. The dust pan's purpose was to block Ms. Spider from the mattress when she inevitably made a run for it.

I sprayed her good and was surprised that she didn't move. Her legs hadn't been curled up like a dead spider's would be. Why do I refer to her as a female? Because SUDDENLY LOTS OF BABIES CAME POURING OUT OF HER! GAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

I kept up the chemical warfare and big momma woke from her labor and went on the move! I had to sweep back and forth between her and the kids, keeping in mind that she could be dropping a trail of children off along the way. When it was all over I had a literal puddle of insecticide on my faux wood floor. I mopped up that and many arachnid corpses with the shivery, itchy, crawly sensation one gets all over one's skin when one is less than stout-hearted.

I'm hoping I'll be exhausted enough to sleep in a few more hours.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fiction Crawler 15



I did my first Fiction Crawler in ten months on last week's StarShipSofa. Go listen and then stick around for some great fiction by Rachel Swirsky and Suzanne Palmer! The Palmer story is narrated by the lush-voiced Ibba Armancas. If you haven't heard before, you're in for a treat.

http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/2014/07/16/starshipsofa-no-346-suzanne-palmer-and-rachel-swirsky/

Here are the stories I'm covering (links are on the Sofa's site):

Feature Development for Social Networking by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Tornado’s Siren by Brooke Bolander

The Oregon Trail Diary of Willa Porter by Andy Marino

A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler

The Curandero and the Swede by Daniel Abraham.

Man-Super

The Boy just learned about Batman villain, Man-Bat. He thought it was a stupid idea and suggested a Superman villain called Man-Super. I said maybe he's a super-powered janitor. The Boy said:

"Man-Super, I asked you to turn the water on six times!"

"Never! Mwah-ha-ha-ha!"

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Oglaf

If you like wonderfully surreal, pornographic, medieval-fantasy-trope-filled webcomics, why aren't you reading Oglaf already? As a sample, I offer this, something that fans of Beware the Hairy Mango might assume I'd like: http://oglaf.com/fully-fleshed/ Be sure to always roll over any given strip for an extra gag.

Lots of the strips are one-shots, but there are some multi-strip stories. You don't always realize that when you're reading them and therefore sometimes wonder what the hell a certain ending was supposed to mean. But you'll get over it. There are lots of returning characters and over time you get the larger picture of the awesome, impossible world in which Oglaf is set. There was one long storyline about the Funsnake with a rather mind-blowing climax. My advice is to go to the archives and start from the beginning of the strip.

It's very adult, very porny, and not everyone's cup of tea, but if my words haven't put you off, give it a look. If you like it, you'll have hours of comics to enjoy. This one is one of my favorites. It seems to be a more poorly drawn, more insane than usual filler, but the insane part is why I love it: http://oglaf.com/trueslut2012/1/

Have fun!