Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Rubble For You

My story, Rubble People, is now online, so you can read it as if you had spent money on a real magazine! Go here: https://www.aliterate.org/stories/rubble/

Monday, November 07, 2016

Review People



My story, Rubble People (143), received a great review recently from Tangent:

“Rubble People” by Matthew Sanborn Smith is simply amazing. Set in a world where the army uses a psychic equivalent of telepresence to allow soldiers to create amalgamated bodies for war, we are presented with the viewpoint of one of these soldier’s wives. The writing is tight and strikes a perfect tone for the world Sanborn Smith has created and the first person narrator used. The story itself shines as the logical progression of the narration takes us to an ending that feels correct and all too human. Read this story.

You can read the review for the entire issue here: http://tangentonline.com/print-bi-annual-reviewsmenu-262/291-aliterate/3290-aliterate-1-fall-2016

You can get the mag itself by subscribing to Aliterate here: https://www.aliterate.org/subscribe.html

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

157, 158

Finished story 157 the other day. It's called Red and Roxanne and combines a few genres, although it's mostly science fiction. It's the first non-flash piece of fiction I've finished in a year and a half. It's around 8,600 words.

I also just finished a flash piece called Candy Crush, which must be 158, of course.

It's all in the hands of the editors now.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rubble People

My latest story, "Rubble People," (Number 143 of The One-Thousand) is in the first issue of Aliterate magazine! "Rubble People" is a strange little science fiction tale that examines the cost of war for those on the homefront. Go get yourself a copy here: https://www.aliterate.org/subscribe.html


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Your Limitations Are Your Strengths

This is aimed toward artists and their art—most specifically writers—but can be applied to all aspects of life.

A story:

There once was a blues band called Earth from Birmingham (the England one, not the Alabama one) who played a bunch of dives where people wouldn’t shut up. Many audiences don’t shut up. What I mean is that these drunks were loud. So Earth went with the solution that had worked for the Beatles back in their loud, drunken audience days in Hamburg: they got louder. As the volume went up, the sound changed. The guitar and bass sounded more distorted. The singer had to get a little more screamy. The drummer beat any subtlety right out of existence. Their bluesiness maybe sounded a little less bluesey.

One day, Earth left their practice space and looked across the street at the movie theater marquee, which advertised the horror movie currently playing. The story goes that the band watched some couples leaving the theater clutching one another tightly. The guitarist, probably looking for a bigger audience, said something like, “Hey, people like being scared. What if we played scary music?” The rest of the guys liked the idea so much, they not only agreed to it, they changed the band’s name to match that of the film that was playing, Black Sabbath.

For those of you unfamiliar with blues music, let me tell you, it’s usually not scary. The group’s sound got a bit farther from the blues and a bit closer to something else that didn’t necessarily have a category at the time.

With no airplay, but a hell of a lot of work, the band began to gain popularity. At one point they were making enough money that the guitarist, Tony Iommi, came home for lunch from his factory job and announced to his mother that he wasn’t going back to work. Perhaps not wanting him to burn any bridges, his mother convinced him to go back and at least finish out his shift. Back at the factory, Tony got himself caught in one of the machines and lost the tips of two fingers on his left hand. (Maybe it was an irony factory)

MUSIC TRIVIA MOMENT: Fingertips are largely regarded as important to guitarists.


Now, in many families, this would mark the beginning of a decades-long resentment and an early death by alcohol consumption, but Tony was a little better than that. He fashioned himself a couple of prosthetic fingertips from what I’ve heard were melted plastic bottle caps, though I don’t know if plastic bottle caps were a thing in the early seventies.

But here’s the part that’s more important for my purposes than the origin of the fingertip material:  Even with his new fingertips, Tony found it painful to hold his tight strings down against the fretboard. He decided to wind the keys down a bit, slackening the strings three steps down from standard tuning. Geezer Butler, the band’s bass player tuned his instrument to match. This brought Black Sabbath two steps closer to their signature sound. They could go lower on the low end than most groups did and the slack strings gave the instruments a distinct rubber band sort of twang.

The point of all this is to look back at the title of this post.



*



When I was a lad in Moosup Elementary School, our art teacher was Mrs Hinchey. (My apologies if  I spelled your name wrong, Mrs. Hinchey) I had no idea how smart she was at the time because I was a bit wrapped up in my own problems with pastels on black paper, but years later, she was my teacher again for a bit, maybe middle school, maybe junior high, and that’s when I realized it. In one class, she gave us our medium of the day and told us to have at it. Some kids jumped into the project without missing a beat. Many kids stared at the materials and at one another wondering what to make. That’s when Mrs. Hinchey fuckin’ unleashed it on us. Here’s what she said:

“If you’re having trouble figuring out what to make, it’s not because you don’t have any ideas. It’s because you have too many ideas."

BOOM!

Go look at the title of this post again.



*



Which of these writing prompts is easier to get going on?

1) A story about anything you want.

2) A story about a guy who is trying to coax his dying car across Soviet Russia.



*



To go back to music again for a moment, as a kid, Ringo Starr was ill and couldn’t go to school for many months. Somebody set a drum kit in front of him and he learned how to play, because what else was he going to do?

His drum kit was set up for a right-handed drummer even though he was left-handed. Some of his most creative drum fills when he was with the Beatles came about because his orientation was the opposite of what it should have been and because he had to move his arms a little differently in order to avoid knocking into cymbal stands with his arms.

Your limitations are your strengths. I didn’t even make you scroll back up for that one.



*



Ryan Holiday wrote a book called The Obstacle is the Path, full of sweet-ass examples of what I’m talking about.  It’s based on an aspect of the philosophy of stoicism which, in a nutshell, goes something like this: “Welp, here I am. Now what am I going to do about it?" A hardcore stoic takes her setbacks and turns them into advantages.



*



Let’s look at me.

I write. I’ve been diagnosed with the depression, with the ADD. I work well in short bursts, so that’s how I write. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to hit a key, so I don’t, and I’ve been through the cycle enough that I know it will pass. Come back tomorrow or the next day. It’ll be okay. But this means that every time I attack the keyboard, I’m in an extreme state of mind. I’m hot to write and I’m stuffing everything I’ve got that day into a page or two.

I like ideas to the exclusion of some other important things. I like heavy stylists. This combination along with my very brief writing interludes can make my work seem dense and devoid of nuance. I own that shit. I make it my voice. Yes, you should always work to improve your weak areas, but I believe if all your areas are in balance, you may be washing out the eccentricities that make your work truly great. Embrace your strengths until they burst. If people want balance, they’re in luck. There are hundreds of other writers for them to read. If they want a ride, they’ll read you.

My podcast, Beware the Hairy Mango, wasn’t popular, but it was unique. As an artist, that was more important to me. It was five minutes long because every word of it was scripted to keep me from “umm”s and “uhh”s. It was funny, because that’s a strength of mine. (You disagree. Humor is subjective, I know. Go with me.) It was absurdist because that idea thing again. It was delivered at top speed, with pauses edited out, because there were things that I thought weren’t that funny, but if they were presented as if they were, and you didn’t have time to think about them, you’d assume they were funny, and maybe even laugh. There was no other podcast out there like it because no one else brought my specific set of limitations to a show.



*



Let’s look at you.

You don’t have time to write. Those individual sentences you get to scribble down on the office printer paper during your smoke break pack an entire day’s worth of punch.

Your family is driving you crazy. Unleashing on them in prose is the most raw and passionate work you’ve ever allowed yourself.

You have physical limitations. You’re forced to approach your art through a medium or a method most people wouldn’t consider and your results don’t quite resemble anything else you’ve ever seen.

You have psychological limitations. Your art may be exquisitely controlled. It may be told in a voice so different that it shocks your audience.

The “J” key is broken on your keyboard. You’ll have to get creative with words and your characters have now developed an interesting new dialect.

Or maybe you take those things in a different direction .



*



The point is there’s no limit on problems. You can let them eat you alive. You can also use them to shape your work into your fingerprint (or plastic bottle cap print, depending on your situation.) If you’re making art, your voice is the only thing you’ve got. Your voice is what happens when your vision gets squeezed through the birth canal of everyday circumstance.

Stop using your problems to avoid making your art. Take your problems to your art and pile them all on top of the accelerator.

Go.




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dresden Dolls Cover Neutral Milk Hotel

This is one of my favorite songs to listen to and watch in recent months. Two-Headed Boy:


Recommendation: The Cracked Podcast

If you like your assumptions about life to be regularly upended, you could do a lot worse than to listen to the Cracked Podcast. Many of its episodes explore things we accept as the-way-things-are-and-must-always-be that are actually social constructs, marketing strategies, or byproducts of some of the weird ways our brains work. I listened to the latest show today, Culture-Specific Things We Do That We Assume are Universal, which is self-explanatory, but besides shining light on our biases, it explores some mind-bending truths about human psychology.

If you're a science fiction or fact fan like I am, you're probably already familiar with swarm intelligence. If not, check out their episode Why We Can Improve Humanity With the Power of Bees, in which they discuss how a group of horse racing experts were able to use software that briefly turned them into a tiny hivemind which accurately predicted the superfecta at the Kentucky Derby (that's first, second, third, and fourth place, in order!).

And the social crusaders among you absolutely must listen to episode 94, Important Chunks of American History That Got Erased, about groups of people getting crushed by the system whom you very well may have never heard of.

There's much more over there that will expand your mind, but I'm going to bed. Go there and check it out!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What's Goin' On

Although I've done a bit of an update over at the Mango, I haven't done it in a while over here. Many of you know that I work seven days a week, with my time divvied up amongst two corporations. So the work I want to do happens at about the pace of digging a prison escape tunnel with a wooden spoon that I stole from the Italian ice guy. (It was nice of him to visit the prison.)

I still, still, still have fifteen regular episodes of Beware the Hairy Mango to go and two episodes of Beware the Donated Mango before I'm done with that forever. I've got decent chunks of every script written, and will put the shows out as I finish them.

I've pulled out a story I've been puttering around in for years with a working title of Red and Roxanne. It's weird, interpersonal, artsy science fiction story that still has to have some cliches extracted, and it may be another year before it's finished. For a couple three days in my meager amount of spare time I'm trying to fix some horrendous formatting issues. Last year Scrivener was on sale, so I gave it a try, using Red and Roxanne as the guinea pig. I got the scenes laid out and worked on it to a degree, when my little netbook choked on it and couldn't move. So that was the end of that.

I reopened the file yesterday and I'm slowly cutting and pasting its several thousand words section by section back into a Word document. Slowly, because the formatting is so fucked up there are different issues with each scene. I'm talking margins, tab settings, fonts, spacing, numbered lists where there should be none, all sorts of shit. And neither Word nor AbiWord will let me select the entire document and fix the formatting across the whole. What a waste of precious life.

Once that bullshit is done I'll have had a few days to recharge my Mango batteries and can get to work on putting more episodes out. What I'm shooting for is to wrap up the podcast so I can get more fiction done. I've got at least five short stories in various stages and a novel rewrite I'm looking forward to getting back to.

I'm going to try to do one draft of all of them before starting on the next set of drafts. I'm hoping that taking that much time between drafts on any one story will give it time to develop in my head, and give me some distance so I can make it better. My name is Matt and I suffer from what Bud Sparhawk calls Premature Submission Syndrome. I get so eager! But I must control myself.

mustmustmustmustmustmustmustmustmust . . .

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Washington

One of my favorite videos lately. I should really post this over at Beware the Hairy Mango. That crowd would love it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Coupla Sales

I should have mentioned these long before this, but I have a habit of neglecting this blog. Going forward, I'm going to try to spend a little more time here and a little less time on Facebook (though I will try to mention this blog on Facebook more).

So back in February, my story, The Wardrobe, (story 136 of The One-Thousand) was accepted by the folks at See the Elephant, a magazine by Metaphysical Circus Press. http://www.metaphysicalcircus.com/seetheelephant/ I haven't mentioned the story or the mag before now, because the contract hasn't been signed. But now I'm thinking, so what? In the event the deal falls through, I'll just say the deal fell through. Why sweat it? It'll be a while before this one sees the light of day, because it's going to be in issue 3 or 4. The Wardrobe is about a piece of furniture that's a lot like that famous literary wardrobe, but mine features a lot more clothing. It's also the creepiest and most surreal story I've had accepted so far.

The other sale happened about a month and a half ago. My story, "Rubble People," (143 of The One-Thousand) sold to Aliterate. https://www.aliterate.org/index.html Not only has the contract been signed, the money's been spent (Aliterate is fast that way, and so am I when it comes to spending). It will appear in either the Fall 2016 issue, or the Spring 2017 issue. Rubble People is about the wife of a soldier trying to cope with all the stresses that the homefront has to offer, namely raising a kid while dealing with poverty and isolation. Its science fictional ideas are a bit off the wall, but the realities it's tied to are too real.

These two sales meant a lot to me because I've shopped these stories around for years without any luck. Every few months I'd pull them out and reread them, wondering, "Okay, what's wrong here?" But then I'd realize nothing was wrong here, they were great stories and I just couldn't find the right editors. I feel vindicated and feel some hope for my future work.

I'll let you know when they're released into the wild. I think you guys will dig them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Fifty Years of Björk

If you're a fan of Björk, you'll probably dig this video. It was made for her fiftieth birthday last year and isn't a traditional documentary. It's more of an assemblage of clips, much of them from amateur/bootleg videos with greatly varying degrees of quality. I enjoyed it because a lot of it was new to me. It's roughly chronological in the tracing of Björk's career, absolutely packed with live performances and a plethora of breathtaking costumes. There are clips from music videos, interviews, and awards shows, with no narrator within earshot. Just float back and enjoy.
https://youtu.be/oMR7ofKkjp4

Friday, April 01, 2016

ABC

The last of the ICFA plays and this one has some action. Written by Kit Reed, directed by Carrie J. Cole, Performed by Max Gladstone, Jennifer Gunnels, and Marco Palmieri.