Saturday, February 24, 2007

Passions in Orbit, a Stirring in the Pants

If I haven't already pestered you, consider yourself now pestered. Go read my latest story, Passions in Orbit, a Stirring in the Pants at Antipodean SF. Then come back here and tell me what you think.

Unless you think its bad. Keep that to yourself I don't need constructive criticism at this point, the story's already done. If you're going to criticize, why don't you take a shot at my next story before I finish it, so I can make it wonderfuller for you and all of your criticizing friends.

Anyway, did I mention read the story? Yes. Yes I did.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

An Epic Tale of Love and Can-Opening

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

How about a story about a guy who opens cans for a living and then aliens come down with the Secret of Life, but they stick it in a can and now the whole world turns to him to open the Secret of Life (You have to understand that this is no ordinary can. This is an enormous can that mere mortals couldn't hope to open. There are grooves and twists and contortions. Only the master could pop this one out.), but he's become disillusioned because the opening of cans doesn't mean that much to him anymore.

"I've opened cans for thirty-seven years now and I don't have anything to show for it but a bunch of open cans. I vowed never to open another can. I want to become a shoe salesman!" The governments of Earth beg the aliens to put the secret of life into a shoe, instead of a can. The aliens laugh at these foolish Earthlings.

"That'd have to be one heck of a big shoe!" one of the aliens says. They almost take the can away from the Earthlings for that one. "No, no," almost all of the peoples of Earth scream as one. The shoe guy isn't screaming. That's how much he doesn't care. Can you get any more jaded than that folks? I don't think so. So the Earthers take the can and shove it inside a big shoe and then they hide the shoe inside the guy's shoe store. The trick is, they have to find someone with enormous feet to make the guy want to pick up that huge shoe. The search is on. They find some gal in the Ukraine with feet the size of Volkswagens.

"But I just bought new shoes!" she exclaims.

"Then we'll buy you another pair!" The man from the embassy says.

"But what am I going to do with two pairs of shoes?" she asks.

"Look, one could be for special occasions. Do you go out much? On dates, I mean?"

"With feet like these? What do you think?"

"Okay, okay. Let us buy you the shoes and we'll find you a date. Cool?"

"All right, but if I don't get the date, I'm returning the shoes, understand?"

"We understand." So they come to America. She gets into the mall all right but has some trouble fitting into the store.

"I need some new shoes!" she shouts.

"We don't have any shoes in your size!" the former can-opener guy says.

"I'm sure you must," she says. "Look there, behind that fixture!" The guy is amazed.

"Well, what do you know? But it's only one!"

The FBI guys in the unmarked van outside begin cursing up a storm. Those idiots only made one shoe!

"Say something!" they say to the woman through the little voicebox in her ear. "We're fresh out of ideas."

"Umm. I, uh," she says. "Well I only need one shoe! I'm planning to cut off one of my feet! Is that a left or right shoe?"

"It's a right."

"Yes, that works out wonderfully! I was going to cut off my left foot!"

"Well, damn," can-opener guy says. "That's certainly fortunate!"

"Hey chief," one of the FBI guys in the van says. "We gotta get this gal on the Bureau! She really knows how to think on her foot!"

Back inside, can-opener guy unties the ropes that keep big-feet girl's shoe on and goes for the new shoe.

"Hey! There's a big can in here!" he says. "And I . . . I can't get it out!"

"Open it," she says. "Then you'll be able to bend it and remove it."

He turns his back on her and gets really quiet.

"Never. I spent a lifetime opening cans. Opened my first can before I could walk. And pissed away a life doing more of the same. I promised myself that I'd never open another can again."

"But, but . . ." She starts weeping uncontrollably.

His heart is wrenched from him (not literally, you understand. That would be a disgusting and horrible ending). "Please. Please don't cry," he says.

"But if I don't get that shoe, I'll never get a date!"

"What kind of freakish, shallow bastard would only date you for your shoe?"

"I don't know, but I hope to find out!"

"I'd date you, you know. Shoe or no shoe."

"Really? Forget the shoe then."

"No! No!" the agents in the van scream. "We need that can opened!"

"Shoe guy," she says. "It would mean so much to me if you could open that can and sell me that shoe."

"I . . . I can't!" He hides his face in his hands and runs sobbing to the food court.

"Now I don't have a date and I don't have a shoe!" And she starts balling, right there in the middle of the mall. She screams so loudly that she scares the mall-walkers off and security fires their weapons at her, but the bullets hit her shoes and bounce off.

The FBI guys are beside themselves. One of them says, "Jesus! This is going to hell in a big, fast way! We need a truckload of Prozac here posthaste!" He screams into the radio.

The truckload comes and they dump the Prozac on top of big-feet girl. That shuts her up. She burrows into the new shoe and beneath the can in order to find a pocket of air. But it's not a very big pocket.

Can-opener guy returns from the food court, having finally collected himself and he's unable to enter his store due to the enormous pile of Prozac blocking the door. He climbs to the top of the pile and digs. His weight wedges the can further into the new shoe and the young girl wails with fear. Surely, she's come to the end of her short and miserable big-footed life. C.O. guy (You can't expect me to write out can-opener guy every single time, can you?) hears her cries and reaches the can that lies between him and the woman he suddenly loves.

"Why do you mock me, God?" he shouts while shaking his fist at the mall's skylights. He considers cutting through the shoe, but look at the size of the thing! It has to cost, like, seventy-thousand dollars or something. The boss will kill him if he damages it. There's nothing for it but to - "gulp" - open the can.

He threw his can opener into the East River months ago when he started his new life. What's he going to do? He almost cries once more as the girl's sobbing grows more faint. Instinctively, he throws himself into it and gnaws at the can with his full sparkling set of adult teeth.

"That'll take him all year!" a rookie in the van shouts as they watch on through the mall's security cameras. "I'll get an opener from the kitchen store."

His supervisor holds him fast. "No, you fool! Don't you think we would have opened the can ourselves if it was that easy? Watch that bastard chew!"

"But . . . but, that's high grade aluminum! And those are just teeth!"

"It's not the strength, my friend, it's the love."

"Friend? I was a fool a minute ago."

"You're still a fool, friend. Look at him nibble with the skill of a master opener. This man is a can-opening demigod, chewing at angles only accessible through a higher dimension! He's making that can his bitch!"

And so he is. The can bursts open and within lies a huge slip of paper that reads: "The Secret of Life is to remove the giant can that is suffocating you." Can opener guy reads this and somehow he understands how it could apply to this situation. He crumples the once vacuum-packed can and discovers his true love beneath, gasping for air.

"Darling," he says, sliding into her arms.

"Sweet Potato!" she moans.

They live happily ever-after. At first the governments of Earth are kind of pissed about the rather specific message the aliens tried to pass off as the Secret of Life, but upon reflection, each man and woman considers the deeper meaning and seeks out the giant cans in their own lives that are suffocating them. Oddly enough everyone discovers that there are actual giant cans on top of them that have somehow gone unnoticed for all this time. They remove them and everyone, everyone, breathes a lot easier.


That was a close one.

How about a story like that?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Storytime For The Easily Entertained

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The fire roared and sparked and cussed as Poppa threw a cold new log into the stove.

"Tell us the story about how you went to the store and bought some laundry detergent, Poppa!" Marla begged.

Poppa removed his filthy gloves and tossed them onto the little woodpile. While the other kids watched the fire through the stove's open door, Bill watched the woodpile. Soon it would be low enough that he'd have to trudge out into the storm to the big wood pile. It was dark out and there'd be trees for snowball practice and lots of snow for pissing. He took another drink of hot chocolate in anticipation.

"Welp," said Poppa, "It all started when I went to the store. Then I bought some laundry detergent."

The kids "ooo"'d and "aah"'d in all the appropriate places.

"Goddamn, I love that story!" Little Timmy said.

"Watch your mouth, son."

"How bout when you washed the dog?" asked Bill.

"I washed the dog," Poppa said. Bill never got tired of hearing that one. He'd hoped to memorize the whole thing and pass it off as his own story to his children someday.

"Tell the one where you stopped at the red light." Timmy said.

"Why, I never done that!" Poppa said. The children howled in consternation. Mama started from under the pile of blankets on the rocking chair. Bill quietly removed a log from the pile and rolled it beneath the sofa.

"You did too done it!" Marla yelled.

"Hush up now! You done woke up Momma!" Poppa said.

"You're losin' your mind, Poppa," Timmy said. "You remember? There was a red light?"

Poppa seemed intrigued. "And then what?"

"You stopped at it."

"Oh, yeah! Yeah! Now I remember!"

"Well tell us!" Marla said.

"There was this red light, see . . ." Poppa trailed off. The children, wide-eyed and mouths agape, leaned forward. Poppa reached for his pipe as if he'd forgotten he'd been telling a story.

"Then what happened?" Timmy asked. Something seemed about to burst in his little skull as he clenched his teeth.

"I stopped at it."

In the chaos that followed the final story of the night, Bill managed to tuck yet another log away, this one beneath the dog.

"I gotta get more wood," Bill said, grabbing his coat and bolting to the door.

Poppa did a double take at the depleted wood pile near the stove. "What do you know? Maybe I am losin' my mind."

"It's all them damn fool stories!" Momma said.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Years Resolution Update; Like You Care

Were you even aware that I had made a resolution? I mentioned it in this blog around the beginning of the year when I relayed the news that the story a day deal would probably grind to a halt (and I was spot on with that prediction). Anyway, my resolution was to complete a novel by the end of 2007 and an important part of that was to finish the first draft by the end of March. I’m currently about five-thousand words behind. My goal by the end of today was to be at fifty-two thousand words. At this moment I’m at about forty-seven thousand. I had a few bad weeks, but I gained a little ground over the past few days so I feel good.

I’d originally set the story about one hundred and eighty years in the future but the more I think about what I have, the more technological (and therefore societal) changes I think I have to make. I’m not sure what I was thinking at first but, I hadn’t accounted for quantum computers, a deeper sort of worldwide network, my belief that individual businesspeople are going to wrestle megacorporations to the ground through technology and so on and so forth. Well, It’s only mid- February. Let the overhauls begin.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Twelvers Surround Me.

See, here's the thing about my work that some people don't understand: When I write weird shit, many times even I don't know what I'm talking about. As a sci-tech-gasming civilization, I feel that the West is far too hung up on explanations. Even the people who believe in magic need sufficient magical explanations for whatever "miracle" they think they've witnessed.

Fuckin' chill, people!

This is not what my work is about. I can't always see what's happening in my head before I write it. Sometimes I let the words flow before I know what they mean. Look at the title of today's entry. Twelvers surround me. What the fuck does that mean? I don't know. Maybe you thought I knew when you started and you hoped that I might explain it to you. I can't. I don't feel that everything has to be explained. Those old radio show afficionados consider their medium superior to television because it makes the listener use his or her imagination.

Same here.

Admittedly, today's title is floating out there, insulated from any context. It was an example. This is what I do sometimes. Words pop into my head and I write them down. They don't necessarily mean anything. What interests me, is generating something in your head. Look at this excerpt from my story, The Golem (from this very blog):

Their dream scribbling programs brought into existence frenetic insects made of pure thought which tore at his smoking bones of living granite until geysers of molten marrow sprayed from the cracks. The bugs steamed up to the sky in scattering wisps of ideas.

I don't really know what the hell these insects are exactly. That doesn't matter. What matters is that something weird and wondrous is going on and I can half understand it, not when I try to analyze and pick it apart, but when I catch it in the peripheral vision of my mind. Something wicked cool is happening out there on the edge of my comprehension. What images pop up into your skull when you read this? What concepts of your reality are twisted? Don't comment and tell me because I don't really give a shit. I don't need the explanation. I just need to know that I felt something weird and nebulous and that hopefully you did too. And I hope we had two different experiences.

Read my fiction for the sheer experience of the words and images and feelings they generate. Don't read my fiction for some scientifically plausible world or ordered universe. There are thousands of others who are already giving you that. If you didn't want something different, then what are you doing here?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why Not?

Nerf Razors.

And finally, if you’ve got to go out (and you do), I think this a beautiful way to go. Would that we could all be so lucky as to hold our loves forever.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Milk Schmilk

Since you've grown up, have you ever just rolled around on the floor for the sake of doing so? Why don't we do that anymore? Sure your floor is filthy but that never stopped you when you were a kid. Kids are pretty stupid. I once or twice looked up at the night sky in terror, and wondered why Orion or the Great Bear or some of the other creatures up there didn't just come down and crush us or eat us. And I was seventeen at the time.

I'm like a week behind now in novel land. Don't give up hope. Push on.

In the future we'll all have artificial breasts, men and women alike, but they'll contain liquids other than milk if we so choose. Perhaps ketchup for instance. Who hasn't been caught in their car with a piping hot order of french fries and not a ketchup packet in sight? We'll all have these two wonderful, portable, containers of liquid at our disposal everywhere we go. Eminently practical and at the same time highly erotic. Hell, in the future our technology will be so advanced we won't even have to limit ourselves to liquids. You may find yourself in situations with crying children and you could squeeze, oh, I don't know, say a toy train from your breast to bring joy to everyone around you.