Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Wrappin' It Up

2010 was a hell of a lot better than 2009, that's for damned sure. Even with a major family issue that's been handled. One old disaster carried over from 2009 is slowly getting more disastrous. I hope to wrangle that one in the coming year. As far as writing goes, I failed big time at my major goal and also had my best year ever. Let's review.

My big goal, as you may or may not remember, was to write 52 stories in 2010. Sadly, I did what I always do and screwed around too much. I wound up with twelve new stories. Somewhat less than fifty-two. I did create a bunch of unfinished stories that may pop up in the future. I'd like to think that the goal spurred me on to write more than I otherwise would have. Inspired by my cohort in crime, Grant Stone, I wrote a comic script, which was fun. I wrote some stories of which I was really proud.

Let's look at my lesser goals. I wanted to make two-hundred story submissions in 2010. I made seventy-one. Admittedly, if I had written fifty-two stories, two-hundred submissions would have been much easier to do.

I did not keep the house as clean as I wanted to. At first I wrote, "I did not keep the house cleaner," then decided to rewrite that, because some of you who are reading this quickly might interpret that to mean I fired one of the servants. I did not watch the whole of Wagner's Ring Cycle, although I did watch the first part, a 2006 production from Copenhagen done in a 1920s style which was quite cool.

Now for the wins. One of my goals was an off-the-cuff, "lose a few pounds." I visited the emergency room in September, after feeling funky after-hours and found out all those middle-aged fat guy diseases I had been avoiding had finally caught me. I had high blood-pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and probably a few other high things. Although I don't mind dying, I don't want to live sick. I started taking care of myself the moment I got out of the hospital. I cut out a lot of fat and sodium, added more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and started exercising every day. I lost thirty-five pounds in three months and the doctor told me a couple of weeks ago that everything was looking good. No more meds for me. Yay!

2010 was off to a great start from day one, as the audio version of my story, Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range kicked off Paul W. Campbell's Cossmass Infinities podcast. June saw my biggest career win so far with a sale of one of my favorite stories to, Beauty Belongs to the Flowers. It marked my second pro sale and you should be able to read it in early 2011. In October I made my third pro sale with Steve Sepp, Tasty! Tasty! to the British science journal Nature (You'll be able to read that some time in the future as well). Big doings! I also sold stories to Electric Spec, Everyday Weirdness and got to participate in the launching of Grant's new fanzine, b0t.

On to the future. I don't think I'm announcing my 2011 goals here. I want to see if I'll handle them differently if they're not in the public eye. Also, they may be changing depending on an opportunity on the horizon which would change the time available to me. Rest assured there are insane writing goals involved and I look forward to 2011 being a great year for me.

I wish all of you a great year to come as well! Keep in touch.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's Goin' On

Real quick, because I haven't been here for a while, but I also want to go to bed.

Welcome to followers Polenth, who's been here for a while, and to Spacey who's newer.

Finished story 131 the other day.

Just chose my stories for Beware the Hairy Mango #44. The Boy effed up the desktop where the show's music is, so I'll have to hunt around for new files.

Finished The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin today. It's event when I actually finish reading a book because I'm always distracted by . . .

I've been wanting to read the book for years, since I saw the A&E version with James Caan and Lisa Bonet. Some deep shit going on in the book that I could appreciate, though I'm not bright enough to fully digest it.

That's it for now. More another time, I hope.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Guy Who Hated Thanksgiving

You may think this is going to be some sort of parable or funny story from the title. No and no. On one of my first Thanksgivings in Florida my father and brother were out working shortly before dinner. Their work was towing vehicles, reselling or scrapping them, that sort of thing. They came back to the house obviously moved by something. They'd towed a car in a really poor part of town and talked to some people there, among them the guy who hated Thanksgiving.

He hated Thanksgiving, in fact he hated all holidays, because he was poor and couldn't give his family what they knew so many other families in the U.S. had. I'm not talking about a new X-Box here. I'm talking about food on the table.

I've got some extreme righty beliefs but what I have more of is extreme lefty beliefs (as well as some that fall into neither camp. I've got something to piss off everybody). Among other things, I believe a strong nation needs not only a strong military, but a population that's well fed, as healthy as possible and well educated. We seem to find unending supplies of money for only one of those things. Beyond the interests of national strength, though, there's basic human decency and the desire to ease a person's suffering.

I'm asking everyone who reads this to consider doing something to relieve hunger. If you want to do something on a grand scale, that's wonderful, but I know most of us don't. Tiny things done by many people work wonders as well. I'm not trying to guilt anyone. What I'm trying to say is many of us can give something small so as to not even feel the pain. So why not do it?

Donate a little something to a food charity. Five bucks. One buck. A can of food. Something you won't even feel, but something. Buy food for a homeless person you see on the street. Bake a little something for a neighbor who's seeing hard times. Go play Free Rice for a few minutes. Anything you can do, any little thing that will fill a belly for a few hours is one of the noblest things any one of us can do. And it really does make the world a better place.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everyone. I hope you have a fantastic holiday. And if you don't live in the U.S., just have a fantastic Thursday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Just finished and sent out story 130, my first story in nearly two months. That's sobering. Shipped it off to The New Yorker because, like the lottery (not Shirley Jackson's), you can't win if you don't play. And your odds at being published in The New Yorker, as impossible as they may seem, are much better than your odds at winning the lottery.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Body Is For Driving

Go read my latest story, A Body is for Driving, in Grant Stone's sparkly new fanzine, b0t. Its beautiful cover is by Ashley Storrie.

b0t is published as an epub file, meaning you can read it on the plastic reading device of your choice. If that device happens to be a big-ass computer, Firefox has an add-on called, strangely enough, EPUBreader, which works pretty well.

Now go enjoy and you can tell me how wonderful I am later.

Friday, October 29, 2010


My take on National Novel Writing Month will be National Flash Writing Month. I'm going to write 50,000 words of flash fiction this November. Let's say 250 words a piece (Though that's not in stone) so we're looking at 200 stories. I believe this is in line with my goal as I may try to sell some of them, and expand others to short stories. I can use goofy ones for the Beware the Hairy Mango podcast.

That's all for now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dear Some People On The Internet

Dear Some People On The Internet,

You get upset at stupid things.

Many people die horrible and unjust deaths in this world. Many starve. Babies are beaten to death.

And you throw shitfits when someone offends you with their words.

Grow up. Grow a spine. The world isn't a polite place to be. We living things eat each other to survive.

Mom used to say, "If they're calling you names, just ignore them." What Mom knew but didn't say was that you can't change an asshole, so what are you going to do? Raise your blood pressure? Who's in control of you? You or Mean People?

I'm betting that people who have to struggle for food or for survival in a war zone somehow don't let other people's words eat them up. We can't help that we were born into our soft lifestyles, but let's get some perspective here. At the very least carry yourselves with some dignity so you don't look like whiners to the other three-quarters of the planet.

If you're planning to comment that I'm getting upset over a stupid thing, don't strain your fingers. I already know that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It Just Ain't Happenin'

As late as one month ago, I thought I could still pull off my goal of 52 stories in 2010 and a flurry of activity ensued. Then life straightened my ass out again. I won't bore you with a litany of excuses, I'm just letting you know it ain't happenin'. If I can't do that, I have no idea how I'll make my ultimate goal after which this blog is named. However, I'm not fretting at the moment. I'm still moving in that direction and If I end up being like one of those marathon runners who limp over the finish line fourteen hours after everyone else has left, I'll be okay with that.

That being said, this has still been the most successful year ever for my writing career, so you're not going to hear too much bitching from me. I haven't really gone into my health, but about a month and a half ago I found out I was zooming down that slope into all those middle-age fat diseases and decided I wasn't going to have any of it. I've dropped twenty-five pounds since then. Everybody was telling me how great I looked yesterday. Once I drop the remaining twenty-five, they'll only be talking to each other: "Jesus, Matt looks sickly!" Normal looks sickly to Americans..

Gord Zajac, the swell guy who edited my story Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range for Chizine was nudging me about a novel the other day and I told him, "Not now," and then pulled out an incomplete novel and started digging into it. Don't anybody get your hopes up.

I'm reading some Raymond Carver right now as I have a couple of stories in suspension that could really benefit from his influence.

If you need some Fiction Crawler in your life, head over to this week's StarShipSofa. I apologize for talking so damn fast in it. I didn't realize it until I listened to it in comparison with everyone else. You also get a story by Pat Cadigan, the First Lady of Cyberpunk!

Aural Delights No 159 Pat Cadigan & Jason Sanford

Coming Up This Week

Announcements: Larry Santoro on StaShipSofa Stories Vol 2

Fact: Fiction Crawler by Matthew Sanborn Smith:

Main Fiction: Life on Earth by Pat Cadigan

Fact: Looking Back at Science Fiction by Amy H Sturgis

Serial: Sublimation Angels Pt 2 by Jason Sanford

Fact: Everything by Morgan Saletta

Promo: Schlock Magazine

Narrators: Cheryl Martin, Josh Roseman

Fiction Crawler Links:

In Pacmandu by Lavie Tidhar

Michelangelo’s Chisel by Christopher Miller

The Strega Cristobel and the Old Rattler Ken by Larry Santoro

Daughter Earth by James Morrow Pt 1

Daughter Earth by James Morrow Pt 2

Elegy for a Young Elk by Hannu Rajaniemi

Yellow Card man by Paolo Bacigalupi

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Ones That Got Away

You can listen to my latest story, The Ones That Got Away (64 in the canon), on this week's episode of StarShipSofa. It's narrated by my golden-voiced chum, Grant Stone. There's other good stuff on the show that you can also listen to.

Aural Delights No 158 Jason Sanford & Jeff Carlson

StarShipSofa Stories Vol 2

Coming Up This Week

Announcements: StaShipSofa Stories Vol 2

Flash Fiction: The One That Got Away by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Interview: Jeff Calson

Main Fiction: Meme by Jeff Carlson

StarShipSofa Interrogations: China Meiville

Serial: Sublimation Angels Pt 1 by Jason Sanford

Narrators: Mike Boris, Josh Roseman

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sale To Nature!

I sold my story, Steve Sepp, Tasty! Tasty! (story 128) to Nature! "Wait," you say, "Isn't that a science journal (Maybe the science journal)?" It is, but they leave a little room in the back for a flash-fiction piece. They've also published Arthur C. Clarke, Bruce Sterling and currently, my Twitter pal, Polenth Blake. As Bart Simpson might say, "I am so juzzed!"

I've got a sneaking suspicion that this qualifies as my third pro-sale as far as SFWA is concerned. If so, we may be hooking up soon.

As a bit of icing, I sent off 129 last week.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Now I Am A Gazelle

If you missed my prancing, see here:

A couple of days ago, a guy at the store asked for something and as we walked back to get it he said, "Man, you must have been an athlete. You move like a gazelle!" Certainly the first time I've ever heard those words. And I'm quite confident that he wasn't hitting on me. If this keeps up, people will demand to see video of me walking around.

The magnificent Harlan Ellison says that he is dying: Which makes me a sad gazelle. You can listen to my open letter to Harlan Ellison on this subject here at the very beginning of the latest episode of StarShipSofa's Aural Delights:

If you want to read my latest published work, head over to Twitter where Grant Stone's embryonic fanzine, b0t, is tweeting my Twitter serial, CITY1. One part is being released each day in October. Look: If you're not familiar with Twitter, you'll have to read those posts (marked with the hashtag #CITY1) from the bottom up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Casino Cameo

I make a brief appearance at this week. The article is The Top 50 Gambling Books of All Time. As I've gained world-renown for tweeting about Casino Royale, editor Holly Emblem asked if I could talk about the novel as a whole in a single tweet. I did, and you can read the results here:

This is essential reading for the Matthew Sanborn Smith completist and it's free and it will only take a couple of seconds of your life. Go read.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

127, 128

Welcome new followers Robyn, Baedon and Philipp!

Stories 127 and 128 are out the door. I feel this news would be slightly more interesting if I gave you the titles as well, but now I'm all paranoid and think some editors might give enough of a crap to Google titles I send them and if they see the story's been floating around for months, they'll figure they didn't get it first and will be offended and will reject my story on that basis alone. It's all very stupid of me.

I'll have another story or two done in the next few days. I've really got to crank it now if I'm going to make my goal of 52 in 2010. Right now that's 9 stories for the year, 43 to go!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Maisy's Many Souls

My latest story, Maisy's Many Souls (number 75 of The One-Thousand) is available in GUD magazine's issue #6! You can score yourself a copy here:

So you know, It's not one of my happy/funny/pleasant stories which Mango fans might expect.

I often like to do the story behind the story, which I'll do here and now. You can come back and read this after you've read the story if you want, there are some minor spoilers here.

The story behind Maisy's Many Souls

I come up with story ideas in a lot of ways, one way being to write a bunch of silly sounding phrases down and see if they inspire something. This time, one of the things I wrote was, "Maisy had jars," and I looked at that and wondered what Maisy had in those jars. I decided she had souls in those jars and then I decided they were on circuit boards.

I wanted a little conflict so I created a human rights guy (that's the technical term) who wants to protect those souls and he's got a partner. Maybe they're a different sort of partners. Then I wanted to throw one more element in to make things interesting. His partner makes sculptures out of light. And that was it. I was off to the races with four or five sentences. If you've read the story, you'll know there's one more rather major idea, but that wouldn't come to me until later.

I wrote a huge chunk of this story on my AlphaSmart 3000 while waiting around at my job while off the clock because I had ordered my iPod and had it sent there to avoid shenanigans. So one of the things I did while waiting for FedEx was to hole myself up in an office and write. This worked marvelously because there were no distractions and no internet and I wrote some great stuff. I was in a flow which was mostly dialogue. Once I get into conflict, it's usually all dialogue in the first draft and then I fill in other stuff later. I realized something was happening in this story, I had risen above the plateau I'd been on for quite some time. Something new and interesting was coming out of me and the characters were coming alive.

I realized something else. I was onto some dark shit. It wasn't horror, but I was getting inside these people and not liking what was there. The whole story made me uncomfortable and when I reread it two weeks ago, not having read it for fifteen months, it still made me feel uncomfortable. I showed it around and got some really positive reactions but everyone agreed that one of the characters made a decision near the end that just wasn't believable.

My thanks to friend and writing compadre Grant Stone who gave me the solution. I immediately forgot it, tried a couple of things and finally hit on something that worked. It was only after I went back to Grant's e-mail that I found I had done exactly what he told me.

Thanks to Colleen Leong who liked the story so much she made me believe it was really good.

Thanks to the gang at GUD magazine, a very nice bunch of people with whom I hope I can work in the future.

Finally, thanks to Mike Ramshaw who passed away earlier this year. Mike was a co-worker (Like Colleen) and a dear friend and I loved him. I wish I could have given him a big hug before he died. Mike was a great writer who never got around to sending his work out to publishers. He was the best first reader any writer could ask for. He questioned everything from the use of a particular semi-colon to the major themes of a story and everything in between. And he wasn't afraid to tell you when something was awful. His extensive notes and our ensuing discussion helped flesh out lots of little details in Maisy. Maisy's kitchen came alive because of Mike and the Kiss-Me-Quick T shirt was all his.

Thanks, Mike.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Casino Royale On The Great Twitter Bond Read

I'm not sure why any of you would care, but I'm posting most of the tweets from The Great Twitter Bond Read here because Twitter can't be bothered to archive them for more than a few days. I say 'most' because I missed a few early ones, things from others I forgot to retweet, and also most of the tweets in which I asked others to join in. The tweets without attribution are from me, @upwithgravity.

The tweets in this post mostly concern Casino Royale. I'll be collecting the tweets book by book. @steveattwitter jumped forward many books to For Your Eyes Only. I'm collecting those tweets, but unless you're following the #bondread tag, you won't see those until I get to that book. Please join in and add your own tweets, either related to specific books or other Bondian stuff. Sorry about all the #bondread tags below. I'm not going to remove them all.

The Great Twitter Bond Read presents Casino Royale:

Join the Great Twitter Bond Read! Please RT! #bondread

First up, Casino Royale (CR for tweeting), 1953. Read it twice before. The film's quite faithful in some ways. #bondread

upwithgravity @fabiofernandes Yes, Craig's Bond is quite the thug, which I like. #bondread

#bondread RT @ChurchHTucker @upwithgravity Which CR is faithful? I'm guessing the last one.

upwithgravity @ChurchHTucker Good guess. The David Niven CR is rather less faithful. ; ) But the TV version before Dr. No was probably good. #bondread

1st challenge of the Great Twitter Bond Read: Prying CR from my Bond boxed set. It's really wedged in there! #bondread

RT @skellyrocker Do you ekshpect me to tweet? No Mr Bond I expect you to text! #bondread

CR c1 'The Secret Agent' Leave Fr. casino, up 3 mil. Le Chiffre's there. B's so bad-ass even his hair does hotel counter-espionage #bondread

#bondread RT@SylvioGoncalves JB Theme, por Monty Norman. Original Bond Band #grandestemasdefilmes

Read Bond. See the world. Read my tweets. In Bondian circle of life, he fills both wombs and graves. Death and Pussy Galore! #bondread

You can also follow @georgelazenby an actual Bond and very entertaining tweeter. #bondread

CR c2 'Dossier for M' Le Chiffre buys whorehouses w/ 50 mil in Soviet cash. Then whores outlawed. Oops! Break him B! Also - SMERSH #bondread

CR c3 'Number 007' Flashback. Head of S sells M on plan to out-gamble Le Chiffre. B has doubts. Do it anyway. M stands for Mutha? #bondread

#bondread RT @ChurchHTucker @upwithgravity Theres an S *and* an M? Kinky.

upwithgravity @ChurchHTucker If only there was an M and an M. Tasty. #bondread

CR c4 'L'Ennemi Écoute' B's blown (not in a good way)! Mathis shows, ruins commie eardrums & tells B his partner is - A WOMAN! No! #bondread

steveattwitter So JB is a 70/day smoker then. About to start ch5 of CR,The girl from HQ #bondread

upwithgravity @steveattwitter If he could die at any time, I understand 70 cigs a day, but how does he chase people? #bondread

steveattwitter @upwithgravity I guess that's why he needs 4.5 litre Bentley. #bondread

CR c5 'The Girl From Headquarters' History of Royale. You won't believe this - B digs Vesper! He reminds her of #bondread

Oops! Forgot to mention there's a big explosion at the end of chapter 5. Some of you may have felt that was important. #bondread

CR c6 'Two men In Straw Hats' The old bomb-in-the-camera-case trick! Saved by the tree. Mathis races off to find a roaming Bulgar. #bondread

CR c7 'Rouge Et Noir' Gettin' ready for the game. B does a little roulette. Wins a mil. Meets Felix Leiter. Gets his booze shaken. #bondread

steveattwitter CR page 50: first occurance ever of the classic line/spoken name "Bond - James Bond" #bondread

steveattwitter Then the Dry Martini on the next page. Curiously in a deep champaign goblet though rather than the martini glass of the films #bondread

CR c8 'Pink Lights And Champagne' Ready for action. Dinner w/ Vesper, smokin' in blk velvet. B explains his gastronomic philosophy #bondread

steveattwitter Avocado pears to follow the caviar and steak courses; very exotic for the post war rationed 1949 reader. #bondread

CR c9 'The Game Is Baccarat' The Bulgar bombers were double-crossed! B explains Baccarat. Vesper warms at dinner and B grows cold. #bondread

CR c10 'The High Table' B dumps Vesper on Felix. The big game is on! Greek gets it rolling & B makes his first attack on the bank. #bondread

CR c11 'Moment Of Truth' B comes on strong, then loses everything! Why don't you hand over our nuclear secrets while you're at it? #bondread

CR c12 'The Deadly Tube' CIA funds B & the game continues. B gets a poke in the ass with a cane-gun. A chair back-flip saves him. #bondread

CR c13 'A Whisper Of Love, A Whisper of Hate' B cleans out Le Chiffre at Baccarat. Champagne! B focuses on Vesper, hides winnings. #bondread

CR c14 'La Vie En Rose?' Breakfast w/ Vesper, who's now cold. V's called away by a message from Mathis. Sham! And she's kidnapped! #bondread

steveattwitter CR Ch 15: "With the choke full out, the engine answered at once to the starter..." definitely not a Ford or a Vauxhall then. #bondread

CR c15 'Black Hare And Grey Hound' B gives chase by car & curses V who is tied by her own dress. Le Chiffre lays a trap and waits. #bondread

CR c16 'The Crawling Of The Skin' B hits trap and crashes! Captured by Le Chiffre, taken to his villa. B fights, gets beaten down. #bondread

steveattwitter CR ch 16: apparently in 1953 ju-jitsu was the only form of foreign marshal art known to the british secret service, very exotic .#bondread

steveattwitter Which would be the least comfortable? 1953 rubber coated flex or modern pvc flex. #bondread

steveattwitter CR ch 17: are Bond's enemies all electricians on their day jobs? They seem to have copious amounts of electrical flex #bondread

steveattwitter Umm... Looks like electrical flex is going to be the least of Bond's worries if this goes down the way its looking #bondread

CR c17 'My Dear Boy' L tortures B. Serious ball-beating. As a kid, thought he beat B's ass. Guess I couldn't bear the alternative. #bondread

discorobot @upwithgravity It's impossible to compose a tweet that sounds like the Bond theme. So just imagine that I did. #bondread

upwithgravity Oops! Meant to put #bondread on the end of that! RT @upwithgravity @discorobot Ba-da Da-DAH Ba-dahdah!

discorobot @upwithgravity Gold-FINGGGGAAAA #bondread

CR c18 'A Crag-Like Face' SMERSH agent puts bullet in Le Chiffre's head just before L can cut off B's dingle! Then marks B's hand. #bondread

CR c19 'The White Tent' B sleeps 2 days, wakes in French care. Mathis gives him the low down. Good guys happy, bad guys not happy. #bondread

CR c20 'The Nature Of Evil' B decides to quit, defends Evil. Mathis mocks him & says B will protect his loved ones when necessary. #bondread

#bondread RT @atfmb This is cool- Didn't know that DC Comics had an option to a James Bond Comic:

CR c21 'Vesper' B asks to see V. Hopes he can still get it up. V tells of her kidnapping. He forgives her and she makes a promise. #bondread

CR c22 'The Hastening Saloon' B's falling for Vesper. Back on his feet, they find a little place in the country. She acts anxious. #bondread

CR c23 'Tide of Passion' No gentle lover, B. 18 chapters of frustration & V puts him off. He swims, gets naked, makes his mind up. #bondread

#bondread My favorite bit of chapter 23? " . . . the shadows had already engulfed his distant pyjamas . . ."

steveattwitter CR ch 23: Bond's covalescing by the sea with Vesper, doctor say's he's well now; what could possibly go wrong? #bondread

CR c24 'Fruit Défendu' B and V have wonderful dinner. V slips now and again into strange dark behavior. B wants to propose to her. #bondread

#bondread Damn. I didn't mention that Bond and Vesper finally got it on in chapter 24, hence the title. Why do I forget the best stuff?

CR c25 'Black-Patch' V makes mysterious phone call. Things turn sour, bickering begins. V is terrified of a man with an eye-patch. #bondread

CR c26 'Sleep Well, My Darling' V's up to more mysterious stuff. She gets scared, gets happy, gets miserable. Has B set her right? #bondread

#bondread Tomorrow is the last chapter of Casino Royale. Finish it tonight, because I spoil the shit out of this book!

#bondread About to wrap up Casino Royale for The Great Twitter Bond Read. Brace yourselves!


CR c27 'The Bleeding Heart' V suicides! She was a double-agent. She loved B. B doesn't love her anymore. B declares war on SMERSH. #bondread

#bondread SPOILER! #bondread

steveattwitter Casino Royale done: On last 2 pages Flemming smashes you over the head with the blunt instrument that drives Bond thru the sequels #bondread

#bondread Overall, CR's a good book, even 3rd time around. Loved the Baccarat showdown and the ending. Love that B's not superhuman. Read it

#bondread Tomorrow we begin (or at least I begin) Live And Let Die.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Free Major Karnage E-Book!


Hurry over to here: Like Wowio on Facebook and get a free e-book edition of Gord Zajac's ass-kicking Major Karnage! I posted about this a few months back and I'm reposting the vid here to remind you how crazy awesome it is:

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm Irregular! (Please Pass The Bran Muffins)

Welcome to new followers BlueSquidProductions and Simon H! What were you thinking?

Today I was inducted into the hallowed halls of the SF Signal Irregulars! SF Signal is one of the absolute best blogs out there and they went and gave me keys to the washroom. Little did they know that I consider flushing optional. If you're not familiar with SF Signal, go check it out. It releases piles of awesome science fiction news, reviews, videos, links and other stuff every single day. I'll be repodcasting episodes of Beware the Hairy Mango there and, if the mood strikes me, posting other science fiction related stuff. You'll also get to hear my sultry voice tossing out bon mots on future eps of the funky fresh SF Signal podcast. Cool-a-mundo!

In writing goal news (52 in 2010), I have to finish 45 stories in 133 days! That's flippin' crazy! I'm reworking what's realistic and what's not in preparing for the final third of the year. Many of the remaining stories will probably be shorter than originally planned. I'm pushing some of the ones that need too much work into my 104 in 2011 file. (That's right!) I've got 27 stories in various states of completion, so I need to whip up 18 more between now and Dec. 31st. Head down. Push on.

Off to do #bondread!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children

Welcome to new follower Keith! He's a Mangophile! My second favorite kind of phile!

Just want to get this out before I die, because it's already been twenty years: Go find copies of Dave Louapre's and Dan Sweetman's brilliant thirty issue run of Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, one of a slew of groundbreaking comic titles born of the 1980s. The titles alone should make you smile and if not, check out the cover gallery. The above pic is the cover of issue #1 (but you probably figured that out because you're clever), entitled A Cotton Candy Autopsy in which a group of clowns go on a drunken crime spree. I so wish I still had my collection.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Join The Great Twitter Bond Read!

I'm going to be reading all of the Ian Fleming James Bond books and twittering about them chapter by chapter. If you want to read along or just read what I have to say, get on Twitter and follow me @upwithgravity .

I was going to tag it #gtbr but that's already taken by the Great Texas Balloon Race. I'm serious. It takes up a lot of precious characters, but I'm going to tag my Bond tweets #bondread. I don't have a lot of time for reading so this could be a very long and drawn out process. The good news is it'll be easy to catch up if you jump in late. The tweets may not be comprehensive, but maybe they'll be entertaining enough that you'll be tempted to read the books.

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! But, shit, you've had like fifty years to read these things!

We'll be reading chronologically. This, according to the Big W:

* 1953 Casino Royale
* 1954 Live and Let Die
* 1955 Moonraker
* 1956 Diamonds Are Forever
* 1957 From Russia, with Love
* 1958 Dr. No
* 1959 Goldfinger
* 1960 For Your Eyes Only
* 1961 Thunderball
* 1962 The Spy Who Loved Me
* 1963 On Her Majesty's Secret Service
* 1964 You Only Live Twice
* 1965 The Man with the Golden Gun
* 1966 Octopussy and The Living Daylights

Jump in! Swim around! It will be an epic adventure in miniature. We may all come to the end of it and discover that we've become worse human beings. You may also discover that Fleming's Bond is a bit more human than Hollywood's.

See you there!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Milkman

Welcome to new follower Mike! Scoot over, everyone!

Not sure why anyone would want to, but I just added some sharey buttons to the bottom of each post. So go share.

There's got to be someone out there who hasn't seen this. Of course, those people may not know what a milkman is:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Billy's Picture Book

Illustration by Rudy Rucker

Billy's Picture Book has been released and the e-book is available online for free! It collects 13 Billy Stories by Terry Bisson and is Illustrated by Rudy Rucker. These are wonderful, funny, creepy tales of a kid caught between two mundane, strict parents and fantastic creatures with bad attitudes. Get it here:

Two of these stories are available in audio from from StarShipSofa, narrated magnificently by Gareth Stack. Gareth's readings, coupled with the stories themselves, had me cackling with glee. Two of my best Sofa experiences ever. And that includes with girls. Check them out here:

Billy and the Wizard

Billy in Dinosaur City


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Prancing Through The Bookstore

Welcome, new follower Bradzooks! Awesome name, bro.

The other day at work:

Regular Customer: Has anyone ever told you that when you walk, you prance?

Me: No. I've been told that I've frolicked and gamboled, but never pranced.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Story 126 just went out the digital door. A pissy little seven this year but the year's not over yet.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Strega Cristobel and the Old Rattler Ken

First off, let me say welcome to new follower, Kate! I think I've welcomed every follower except for one, because at the time I couldn't figure out which one of you it was. You were like an optical illusion in which a crowd of people seem to have developed an extra head. So a belated welcome to that person too.

Now I want to turn you on to magnificent narrator Larry Santoro reading a story by magnificent writer Larry Santoro. The story is The Strega Cristobel and the Old Rattler Ken and the venue is the Old Towne Books & Tea podcast. I downloaded this months ago but just listened today and the story is wonderful. I've already talked up Larry on this blog, go listen for yourself:

I have to be straight and tell you the host of the show is still feeling things out here as this is only episode 3 and he rambles a bit, so be patient or skip ahead. Enjoy the story.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beware The Hairy Mango 36 Is Live!

I usually don't mention the Mango here, but I haven't done one in a while and my friends on Facebook see this too and who would want to deprive them? The new Episode is Truck Stop and Climbing Trees! Check it out here:

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sale To!

I sold my story, Beauty Belongs to the Flowers, to! If you know, you know this is mighty awesome. If you don't know, let me just tell you that this is mighty awesome. This is my second pro sale and it's great exposure for a story that I love (number 57 of 1,000). I'll let you know when it's out and provide a link. If you guys remind me, I'll give you the story behind the story here on the blog when it comes out.

I'm a happy goose.

I know I've put Gene on here a couple of times before, but this deserves a Gene style celebration!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Groovin' To The 8-Bit

@steveattwitter turned his followers onto this groovy little 8-bit player today. You need Flash. Sorry iPaddies!

Discovered this great new science fiction market thanks to Duotrope. They need lots of stories. Looks like they'll be e-mailing a story a day out to their subscribers.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Second Mission

I always had a second mission in mind for this blog, after the flash-fiction-a-day went away, but I never got to it officially. I like to turn people on to cool stuff. When I'm not talking about my writing here, I'm going to try to link to something that I think is cool and want to share with you. A lot of people I know who have lives and don't spend them here always ask me, "Where do you find this stuff?" Which makes me happy because I know that I'm introducing them to something they wouldn't have already found.

Now you people reading this, you don't have lives and you may already have seen the cool things that I have, but it's unlikely you've seen everything that I have. So you may gain something from this. Between this and writing updates, I hope to post something new every day. We'll see how that goes.

My editor at Chiaroscuro, Gord Zajac, was kind enough to list my teddy bear story as one of his top five at Chizine. Read his post here, and by all means check out those other stories as well:

That wasn't the cool thing. That was just self-serving.

The cool thing is that Gord has a new novel out from ChiZine Publications, called Major Karnage and it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. You can buy a copy of the limited press run here: And, no, the cool thing isn't going to be something you have to buy all the time. I'm not making a penny off of it. But you can enjoy the following, as I have. This is Gord reading from the first four pages of the book. It's a blast:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fundraiser For Hearts, Hands And Homes

Alana Garner-Jones, a lady I've been friends with for almost thirty years, works for an organization called Hearts, Hands & Homes Community Collaborative For Foster Care & Adoption. They're doing a fundraiser at The California Pizza Kitchen at the Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut. If you're in town on June 8th of 2010, eat a bunch of pizzas there from 11:00 AM to 8:30 PM because 20% of everything you spend will go to Hearts, Hands and Homes.

You need to bring a flyer from Alana in order to be counted and you can reach her through Facebook. Here's the page for the Fundraiser: If you want to help and you're not on Facebook, give me a shout in the comments or drop me an e-mail at and I'll pass it along to her. Do it for the children! Thanks!

Monday, May 17, 2010


125 is in the bag and out the door. And over the river and through the woods. That's number 6 for the year.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Story At Everyday Weirdness

My story, One with Everything, which you may have read here years ago, appears at Everyday Weirdness today. Take a peek, it's super short:

Friday, April 30, 2010


Just completed 124. 47 left to go this year. 876 in the next nine years.

New Mango is here:

My first Fiction Crawler in many moons is out on the Sofa this week. Also, the feature story was recommended by me on an earlier Fiction Crawler.

Aural Delights No 132 James Alan Gardner

Fact Article: Science News by J.J. Campanella

Main Fiction: The Ray-Gun: A Love Story by James Alan Gardner

Fact Article: Fiction Crawler 9 by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Art Cover Audio Intro by S.P Wilson

Narrators: Ray Sizemore

Art Cover by S.P. Wilson

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Big Four One

I am now forty-one years old. I have nine years to write eight-hundred and seventy-seven stories.

No sweat.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Phone Conversation At Work Today

ME: Thank you for calling Barnes and Noble. This is Matthew. How can I help you?

GIRL (I'm guessing ten years old): Matthew? Are you single?

ME: Yes, I am. Are you asking me out?

GIRL: How old are you?

ME: I'm going to be forty-one tomorrow.

GIRL: Happy birthday.

ME: Thank you.

GIRL: Um . . . Do you wanna go to, like . . . Outback tomorrow?

ME: I'd love to, but unfortunately I have to work.

GIRL: You have to work on your birthday?

ME: Unfortunately, yes.

GIRL: When are you available?

ME: I don't actually know. (Laughing)

GIRL: Yeah, um . . . That laugh? It's not so good.

ME: Well, we all have our faults.

GIRL: Okay, well, I'll call you.

ME: Okay. Bye.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fund Raising Auction For Jeanne Robinson

Thanks to Church for this link. Sci-Fi Saturday night is holding an auction on May 8th to raise money for Spider and Jeanne Robinson to help with their expenses during Jeanne's battle with cancer. More details here:

Forgot to mention this before. Sent out story 123 last week, A City on the Move. 48 to go for the year, 877 to go for the decade.

Youse Guys

As they say in New Jersey, thanks, youse guys! For you foreigners, pronounce it like "use guys." I want to thank everyone who tossed some money in the Mango pot. I'm not totally in the clear yet but your donations (and some of them were more generous than I could have expected) have really helped. I'm currently taking steps to get more control over my financial life. More hustle will be needed on my part, but that's good motivation.

In other news, I participated in the latest Mind Meld over at SF Signal. This go around, we were asked, "What are the coolest robots in science fiction?" You can check out my answers, along with everyone else's here:

Something else that's good: I'm currently working on Fiction Crawler 9 for the Sofa! It's been around seven months since I did number 8! I'll send it Tony's way soon, though I don't when he'll choose to run it. I'll let you know. The six stories I recommend are among the best I've ever recommended. You can't wait!

Speaking of Sofa neglect, I do that too much. Let's see what's going on there this week.

Aural Delights No 131 Gregory Frost

Editorial: Goodbye Steve by Tony C Smith

Fact Article: Observation Lounge by Cheryl Morgan

Promo: The Gamma Quadrant Podcast

Main Fiction: Madonna of the Maquilador by Gregory Frost

Narrators: J.J. Campanella

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I've got no sob story for you. I need some dough and was hoping for a little love for the free content I provide over on that other site:

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Story Behind "Better Than Anything"

Scroll down one post to read the story itself. Or click:

As I've stated before, this was my first published story, in a Barnes & Noble anthology called Between the Leaves, edited by Stuart Miller. It was an antho of writing B&N employees and although it only paid five copies, I had to submit a piece just to know if my work was too awful to even be included in a gimmie such as this one.

The first germ of an idea for this piece was the question, "What if your fingers could bend the other way too?" This occurred to me one day in high school while I was imagining what fun it could be to horrify a particularly weak-bellied English teacher. I pictured myself making a fist, slowly opening my fingers, and making all of my knuckles bend in the opposite direction so that I'd have a fist once again. This fist, of course, would employ the back of the hand as the palm, have the nails on the inside, and look pleasingly odd at the end of my arm. But that was as far as the idea went.

In my early twenties a couple of thoughts were bouncing around inside my skull which made their way, in one way or another, into a few of my stories. The first concerned my early love of comic books, coupled with my later disappointment in most of the writing. I was interested in writing comics myself because I wanted better writing. But I also wanted full control of the finished product. Since I couldn't draw, I decided that fiction dealing with the themes that I found so fascinating was the route to take. I wanted to play superheroes from an adult point of view: smartened-up, with characters that acted like real people. The second thought concerned television news, its increasing drive towards sensationalism, and its ever-growing prefabricated substance. By the latter I mean opinion polls, computer generated re-enactments or artists renditions, creating controversy where there was none and so on (All of which led to a decided lack of actual news). With this story I simply took it to the extreme.

The actual spark that brought all of these ideas together was a method suggested by Ray Bradbury in his book, "Zen in the Art of Writing" (If you want to be a writer, this book is required reading), in which he mentions making huge lists of words (The goat, The mailbox, The appendectomy scar, etc.) and considering what thoughts each word triggers. When something excites the mind sufficiently, you've got yourself a story idea. I was sitting on my car in my front yard, playing with this method mentally, and I thought: 'The Glove.' The rest is in the story.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Better Than Anything

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

First published in the Barnes & Noble anthology, Between the Leaves, Edited by Stuart Miller

That damn tapping woke him up, echoing from somewhere downstairs, beneath the heart of the house. Greg swallowed to soothe his dry throat and pressed the clock stud in the headboard. Excited dust motes, once carefree in their nowhere drift, clung to each other in a passionate frenzy in the clock's field. 12:07 P.M., they glowed for an instant before burning to nothingness while he heard the time whispered in the windless bedroom.

Kelly was gone. About an hour and twenty-seven minutes, he judged, running the coolness of the sheets through the ultra-sensitive fingers of the Glove. They'd made love last night (the Glove still smelled it on the sheets), just like Greg had fantasized when they were in high school together. Well, not exactly like he'd fantasized; he wasn't the same person he'd been in high school.

He studied the creases in his skin at the bathroom mirror, fascinated by what his wrinkled bedding had left for him to read. He fancied himself a scarified tribal chief while running his one bare hand under icy water. Finally he fell flaccid so he could piss before his bladder burst. Nothing had been in to clean for a while. Not much of a need since he'd never had a woman stay the entire night before. Nights with a lady usually brought screams and a quick scramble to throw her scattered clothes into the crook of one arm and she was gone, past the limo driver who had learned to wait for the familiar scenario. The women, more often than not, felt like they had escaped rather than left. He never chased them; he understood. He just wished they would understand that he got more out of lovemaking through the glove's eleven senses than he could ever get from his penis' one. The Glove gave more to his partner, too. Kelly had reveled in it and because of that, he enjoyed it even more than usual. It was the first decent night he'd had since the new season's push had gotten underway. His belly burned just remembering the job.

Reynolds OmniMedia needed a ratings-phenomenon for the Reports, that much was obvious. With the legalization of Obsession, business had been ass-over-elbows downhill and picking up speed at ten Gs a second. But the Holy Alliance had ordered a spring purge and cleansing of the flesh this month. There would be no better time to get people onmind once again before ROM and its kind became a long forgotten memory among powerstims. And Greg Herod felt like he was dancing on air . . . with the ground rushing up to meet him at a thousand feet per second.

Downstairs, Kelly Bourne bounced her wide bottom lightly on her chair, tapping on Greg's 19thCen dining table with a polished teaspoon. A red stim dangled lazily from beneath her tongue. Guess drool doesn't bother her much, Greg thought. He had just come down naked from the bedroom, dragging his feet along the rich cream carpet, beckoned by her tap-tap-tap. She was a beautiful woman, and her large frame only emphasized it. The maroon and gold of her painted nails contrasted exquisitely with her blond hair and the white silk pajamas she seemed to have pulled out of nowhere. She was a vision and Greg wondered for a moment if he couldn't have her here every morning lighting up his palace with her elegant splendor. Marriage? Jesus, last night wasn't that good, was it? He snuck up behind her and swept the spoon from her loose grasp with his incongruous left hand, black and ridged from fingertips to three-quarters of the way up his forearm. It was the Glove, permanently attached and the ticket to the good life that he lived right now.

"Oh," she said, "You scared me." Her plastic stim tinkled to the table and she wiped her mouth on a cloth napkin. "What's wrong, real silver?"

"Yes, but more importantly, the table is real wood." He pulled a chair from the wall and pulled up next to her.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know."

She was even more beautiful than she had been in high school, or maybe it was just that the peer pressure was off now. Back then her enormous size had marked her as a girl not to be dated for fear of recrimination from the other jocks. They all said she was fat. She wasn't though. She was just large. Her size intimidated most guys. Kelly and Greg had been friends and Greg had always thought about going with her but never seemed to get around to asking. But last night after nine years of adulthood and real world, not to mention a towering confidence that didn't exist before the Glove, he'd just about climbed onto her lap at the United Media dinner to the paparazzi's delight.

She was an executive with Reynolds East, the Advertising end of the game. He'd forgotten her father had swung in the upper echelons of the company years ago, her obvious inroad. When he bumped into her at the UM for the first time since high school, everything had fallen into place.

"I was waiting for you," she said now. "I guess I was getting bored."

"Bored? You should have turned on the Reports."

"Oh, no. They don't really do a whole lot for me. I've got to live them, practically."

"I do live them, he said, smiling.

"That's right, I forgot for a second. How long have you had this thing?" she asked, caressing the Glove like a cow's udder.

"About five years now. Dar had it for nine and Germane for thirteen, so I figure I still have some time left."

"You think they're going to give you a few more years to live and hand the Glove to the next young kid?"

"I don't see why they shouldn't. The Glove is the star of the show. I'm basically just a pretty face to carry it around and smile for the Reports. I'll probably think of some way out of it by that time."

"Its last two owners didn't." She had a bowl of oatmeal in front of her, still steaming slightly. She started to eat, not shaken by the Glove at all, but maybe her line of work had just made her jaded. And maybe that's why those awful thoughts of marriage were creeping into his head now.

His link buzzed.

Greg nodded and took it on personal. "Yeah?"

"This is it, you ready?" It was his controller, Sharky. Sharky knew the business backward and throughout and Greg took pains to stay on his best side. When the shit came down came down six years from now, nobody was going to be able to help Greg more. This call was the one Greg hadn't wanted to take. ROM was lighting the fuse. He was their biggest star by far, the only action celebrity that wasn't completely created by Reynolds, the only one who had abilities beyond that of human technology. So when they wanted digits, it was Greg that got tossed into the inferno. And as the consumer took it all more and more for granted, Reynolds played him on bigger and bigger risks. No matter what he told Kelly, he was sure this week, the biggest blitz on the public staged yet, would be the week that killed him.

"It's a bomb, down it the ‘burbs right by you. A plasma bomb," Sharky whined.

"Holy shit. Why didn't they get Blacksmith to do it? That's his bag."

"He'll be there too, but their excuse for having you along is that his hands haven't grown back yet. Just be glad your crisis has arrived and you don't have to worry about it anymore."

"Oh, no, there's nothing to worry about now. Wheeeee!"

"Get on the shuttle in seventeen minutes. Don't be late or else there won't be any place to go anyway." He clicked off.

"Gotta go," Greg said. "Martin can let you out."

"What is it?" She suddenly seemed anxious.

"Just biz."

"What kind of biz? Stay here and let the next guy handle it."

"Look, I know my job better than you do. I gotta hurry, it's an emergency."



"You remember what we talked about last night?"

"Only vaguely. My left hemisphere dissolved in the champagne around one-thirty."

"We talked about early retirement, Greggy, remember? Quit it now, right now, before you go out and they kill you."

"I can't. Not now. It's an emergency!"

"They're making it an emergency, can't you see that? Let someone else do it and you're a normal person again, with your own life. You've got enough money now to do whatever you want."

He wasn't listening, just struggling into a torn up pair of jeans he liked to call his Robinson Crusoes.

"Do you think for yourself anymore, Greg? Why don't you lose that glove for God's sake? Ask it to leave?"

"Look, you don't understand how it is. Things have changed since the last time you saw me."

"What things?"

"Don't you remember me eight years ago? I was studying full throttle just to make Ds, I got fired from five jobs senior year alone, and I was sleeping in my truck because my parents threw me out of the house. I was a nobody. I was worse than a nobody, I was a loser. And it didn't end there. I'd be dead already if it wasn't for the Glove, from alcohol maybe or a gunshot to the head. This is the only thing that makes me anybody. It's the only thing I'm good at! Ask anybody."

"It's not true," she whispered, shaking her head. You're obsessed with that thing, it's taking over your personality."

"You didn't seem to mind it last night."

Her eyes grew cold, and she went back to eating her oatmeal. Somehow he knew she wasn't talking to him any longer. It's not like he could tell her anyway.

"What's this all about anyway?" he asked, "Did Reynolds send you here?"

Kelly let her spoon sink to the bottom of the bowl and rose swiftly. She slapped him hard enough to almost knock him over. "I have to go." She walked away without sparing him a glance and went to the bedroom. Either she was sent by Reynolds and was a good actress or she actually liked him. It was hard to believe this second one.

"Just go home to Chicago!" he yelled, wondering why the evacuation hadn't yet begun. "Fast as you can!"


He tried to get in touch with Sharky on the shuttle. No answer. Sharky had smelled death and bolted.

"Thanks a lot for your confidence, asshole," Greg muttered. He passed the short trip watching the last-minute evacuation on the Reports. Muted anxiety squeezed a small neighborhood with artiturf lawns and fiberglass watchdogs. The National Guard loaded the trucks with people who didn't want to stay but didn't necessarily want to go either. One man tried to bring his wide screen monitor into one of the mottled grey trucks only to have it thrown to the ground and smashed when he refused to give it up. Its shattered plaz was the closest thing to a cry for help the addled neighborhood could muster.

Greg ate a spotted banana while he watched a scene recorded earlier of the Bartons, the people unfortunate enough to rent the property on which the bomb had been found. Mr. Barton, still in a worn red plaid robe with a fringe of threads hanging from the bottom, held the poodle that had uncovered the device. His wife, squinting without her glasses, stared down the viewer while crying that they had no place to stay, that their son was fighting in the war, and that her sister had disappeared when they tried to reach her. The reporter asked them if they had any enemies. Greg roared with laughter.

"What the hell could these people have done that would make someone plant a plasma bomb with a fifty kilometer radius on their land?" he shouted at the Report. The reporter's question was ludicrous and yet he asked in the hope that other numbers would think that it could happen to them too.

Then the sensors panned across the yard to show a bomb squad making final preps with the Blacksmith before fleeing into a white chopper. Greg felt his stomach flip-flop more from the sight of him than the fact that he'd hardly eaten. He had hoped the Big Stim would be a one-man show, or at least that he'd be teamed with someone other than the Blacksmith. The Blacksmith was the unofficial leader of the Ac-Cels who hated Greg Herod either for his power, his fame, or a little of both. Aside from that, the guy was an asshole to the nth degree. Too bad plasma bombs were his business.

Everybody and his uncle had a plasma bomb these days; practically the fashion. A hell of a lot easier to make than a standard hydrogen bomb because the parts weren't illegal to buy, own or ship. Sure, it was more expensive than an office building in Bhopal, but it was feasible. The gate could be bought by a government and its registration laundered, and as long as you had a power source big enough, you were in business.

The air near the Barton residence (possibly the former Barton residence) was thick with microscopic stim sensors. Reynolds had the area under an army of security bots to keep the competition out for at least a half hour. More than enough time for the bomb to go off.

Greg felt the sensors salivating as they gobbled up his presence. He was an institution, a one-man SWAT force known as the Fist on the Reports. Not quite as flashy as the young sucks calling themselves Action Celebrities nowadays, but he didn't need flash. He had substance. He had prime numbers, with a history that went back to the last generation.

He'd changed into his costume just before walking out. It made him feel more of a freak than usual, focusing attention on the Glove, what the Reports liked to call the Anything Glove, because that was what it was capable of. The Glove had a name before its wearer did. His entire outfit was deep red save for the Glove. He thanked God he didn't have to wear a mask; his looks saved his identity. Unlike Beowulf or Odd, he was a person, not a costume. A person who carried this thing at the end of his arm.

"Take a seat, hotshot," the Blacksmith called to him. Greg took it without a word. His life depended on this man and he wasn't about to start a fight. There was a small pit around the bomb, allowing as much access to it as possible without moving the thing. On the edge of the pit, like the king of the cockroaches with the dirt as his throne, sat the Blacksmith, real name: Ronnie Moscowitz, the man so famous for defusing bombs he nearly had three-quarters of the Fist's numbers. "There isn't anything the Blacksmith can't defuse," they say. Except maybe his appetite, Greg thought. Three-hundred and two pounds, his Glove remembered for him. And the man was short on top of that. Sure, someone standing six-ten, six-eleven might wear three-hundred pounds pretty well, might even be considered slim, but at five-eight the Blacksmith looked like a pig.

But he was the best. Tore up that warhead the Ibn Mahesh boys got a hold of. Took it apart with the world standing over his shoulder, right in the middle of Washington Colum. Gained lasting fame when he rode the Kitel-Sat as it burned through the sky and he snuffed the self-destruct when it threatened to come down right on the head of Beijing's financial district and wipe out three city blocks. He saved countless lives and thousands of acres of priceless property and was considered a national hero. But now he sat in a pile of dirt while Greg had a 50K plasma bomb between his legs. At the end of the Blacksmith's arms were two white regen tubes ending in temporary plaz fingers that were useless for this type of job. The tubes covered the stumps that were his hands three weeks ago, before they were blown off as he idly tossed a hand grenade to himself. Greg had smirked when he heard the news. Now he wondered how much bad karma a simple smirk was worth, because today the Blacksmith wanted the Fist to be his hands.

Staring at the bomb, Greg couldn't think about the town and city it was about to destroy, or about the tens of thousand of people it was about to kill. The only thing that he could imagine was how it was going to feel to be blown away one-tenth of a second after detonation by a minute chunk of that sun that was beating down on them, transported eight light-minutes in an instant by the gate with the laundered registration.

He felt the bomb's electronic heartbeat through the Glove, a hum that seemed deafening, though it was a whisper compared to the harsh pulsing of the blood through his veins. It was all too real, too alive, slowly coiling to a precise tension that would unleash itself in all God's fury in just seven minutes and he hoped they could stop it. His mouth filled with spit, like it always did just before he threw up, because he remembered that he was "they" and it was up to him to stop it and he didn't know what the hell he was doing.

It was the Glove's fault. The power at the end of his left arm that made him the most widely recognized person in the world, according to Gallup. Discovered by an international exploration team off of Barnard's Star twenty-seven years ago, it was the first known piece of extra-terrestrial space garbage. It was a piece of trash, a McDonald's wrapper tossed by some alien out of the car window as it zoomed through a no-name galaxy. A piece of trash that made Earth call back its little ships and adjust its focus to hiding from the universe it once believed it could conquer. The thing had looked like a living Koosh ball made of crude oil when they first brought it on board the research vessel Brahe. After a few days it decided against spending any more time in their labs and escaped to make contact with Robin Dar, an astrophysicist who changed professions soon after her return to Earth. It became a glove when it met her, the Glove, and hasn't made any long-lasting changes since. Reynolds had snapped up Dar with a fat contract the minute her slender foot had hit civilian ground and ushered in the era of the Action Celebrity. And now, a generation later, Greg Herod looked at the thing that made him one of the richest stars in the world and despised it. We might all be killed, but you'll survive and crawl onto the next person in line, he thought.

The Blacksmith puffed on his cigar, cool as a killer's knife. He always got that way around bombs, the only time he really relaxed. After a long, slow drag, he rationed his speaking breath like a miser. "Not sure why they called me in at all. Pretty whiz kid like you oughta be able to handle the whole operation with that supercrutch your career's leaning on."

"You want to leave?" Greg asked. "Why don't you run down that chopper?"

The Blacksmith let cigar smoke twist from between his yellow, solid teeth. His look said he was ready to pounce if he could, but he just said, "Get your boy through that screen, first off. There's a few different detonators in these things. You try and take off that screen, you'll trigger one of ‘em."

Greg's fingers grew as long and as thin as knitting needles and the Glove penetrated the mesh screen which separated him from the internal workings of the bomb.

Moscowitz sat back and spoke with the air of a backwater lecturer leaning against a pickle barrel. "You'll see they use different bombs and situations to hook different numbers. Most of ‘em ain't this elaborate. Usually, for an investigative angle, the bomb could be gasoline and a nine-volt, they'll just hide the damn thing and the whole show'll be on finding it. On those, I'm suddenly the big criminal psychologist, who tracks it down ‘cuz he knows how these terrorists think.

"Ones like the Kitel-sat are just plain old action, like I'm fuckin' James Bond or something." He choked out a loud laugh, spitting his cigar into the freshly turned earth. "These ones here are for numbers who're into MacGyver."

"What the hell is MacGyver?"

"Forget it. The numbers don't remember either but they eat it up. I like to think of 'em as puzzle bombs."

"I don't give a damn what you think of them," Greg said, "Just as long as you keep your torn-up ass on the business at hand and let me live after six minutes from now." Moscowitz chuckled, like he had something on him.

"There's a seal here," Greg told him. "It's a . . ." He didn't want to believe it. Saying it out loud would make it true and he didn't want it to be true.

"It's a what?" the fat man yelled.

"It's an atomic lock."

"Oh, Christ," the Blacksmith whispered. He touched his throat mic with his right stub and relayed this to his superiors. He nodded slowly as his inner ear received the instructions Greg couldn't hear, and said:

"It's a safe bet whoever designed this thing doesn't want to let us in. So the key is going to be something very rare and possibly unstable. Now, unless you have something in that hand that can figure out what we need and transport it here immediately, we're fucked. Plan B is to pick your favorite direction and run like your ass is on fire."

Greg fought dizziness now, trying desperately to keep a grip on the rational, thinking part of his brain because he knew that no matter what else it could do, the Glove couldn't get him away far enough, fast enough to escape.

"Wait," he said. "My glove. It changes shape. I can try to pour myself into the lock till it's the shape of the key, fill the lock and open it."

"That's great," he said, "but we don't know what kind of atom it'll be until the exact microsecond you become it. It could fall apart and fry the shit out of us."

"Would you rather die now maybe, or die in five minutes definitely?" Greg watched the sweat dribbling out from between the thick ripples of fat on his partner's neck. The Reports' instant editors never showed that to the public. What else were they editing now?

"Do it already!"

He did it and he could feel subatomic particles snapping into their tiny orbits. His heart beat twice for every electron/proton pair that he added to the formula and still his work was rapid. He found himself slowing as he neared the minefield toward the end of the periodic table. Suddenly his wrist expanded into an impenetrable black dome which surrounded the bomb. Looking up, he felt a shiver at the bottom of his back. The Blacksmith saw Greg's look of surprise at what happened and he looked like he found out something dirty, some vile secret about the Fist.

"It sometimes acts to protect its owner without my instructions," Greg explained with a sheepish smile. The Blacksmith leaned back, slowly, now regarding the Glove as an unpredictable animal, rather than the product of an unknown science.

Something was wrong.

"I'm stuck," Greg said.

"What do you mean, stuck?" His eyes darted around the obsidian shield of the Glove, vainly attempting to see through to the problem.

"I've got ninety-four electrons and as many protons in place. The lock's full up but it's not opening."

With a soft thud, the Blacksmith nearly damaged himself as his right stump darted to his throat mic. He spoke quickly, but remained coherent.

"Isotopes!" he shrieked.

Greg's breath returned to him as the Glove now continued its work. Why didn't it take care of that in the first place?

"There it is!" he cried feeling the lock open. It's plutonium 244. Stable enough, though it was dicey getting to it. The shield wants to stay in place," he added almost as an aside. "I can feel my way through from here." Two minutes and counting.

The Blacksmith asked him, "What's next?"

Even with the glow of the inner clock, the light within the bomb was virtually nonexistent. But although the Glove is capable of more senses than an unaided human, it's sense of touch has always been its most superior sense and Greg trusted it through the remainder of this operation.

"There are some buttons." He felt the painted marks to identify their functions. "They're . . ."

"What? They're what?" the Blacksmith yelled.

"It's a transport gate," he said, not quite believing himself. "Not the plasma transporter, it's the kind with the buttons. It's a second gate."

The Blacksmith's eyes grew wide. "What?" He was on his throat mic again. "Oh shit! It's not supposed to be there!"

"What do you mean? What do I do, you fat son of a bitch? Hurry!"

"I don't know, I wasn't briefed on this!" His voice was wet and cracking. He was about to get up (to do what? Run?) when Greg willed forth from the Glove a metallic leash around the Blacksmith's throat to quiet him, and he looked into the Blacksmith's eyes.

"You aren't shit, are you? All the shit you've given me about being nothing without the Glove and now the truth comes out. All this time I thought you knew your stuff and you were just an actor. Well, don't worry about the bomb because I'm killing you before it blows!"

"Nggg!" the Blacksmith said as he pointed to his head. Greg released him as a soft female synthetic said over the Blacksmith's amplifiers:

"This is the Reynolds OmniMedia emergency crisis containment unit. Please enter the following jumpgate coordinates: Del. Del. Sig. Pi. Omi. Del. Omi."

"No!" Greg yelled. "It's a setup!"

"What? You crazy son of a bitch, punch it in!"

"But anything could . . ." A cold realization settled to the bottom of Greg's stomach. "You people didn't need me to crack this bomb. You wanted me to take on whatever's coming through this gate, whether it's an army or a nanocloud!"

"Look, we needed you for both. We can argue about this later. If there is any later in twenty-seven seconds, goddammit!" He looked at his chronometer and desperately whacked his stump against the Glove's improvised dome, cracking his regen tube. Green liquid spilled out, exposing an embryonic set of fingers.

Greg willed the leash around the fat man's throat once again. "Listen, you bastard, this glove gives me the power to wipe out anything Reynolds can throw at me. You know I can crush whatever's coming through the gate and you should also know I'm crushing you next. And Reynolds is in deeper shit than you, because contract or not, I'm taking control from here on out." Greg took satisfaction in the slight bulge of the Blacksmith's eyes as the glove punched in the code Greg had already forgotten in the heat of the moment. The clock ticked off its last three seconds and Greg prayed to God that he wasn't about to be blown to Hell.

He screamed when the burst of heat and light from the gate that appeared at his side burned his skin. He screamed more from fear than pain, imagining for a second that the bomb was exploding. The Glove tugged at his hand, like it wanted to separate itself from him. Almost instantly Greg collected himself and turned to face the foe from the gate.

Ronnie Moscowitz, born loser, thrust into fame by a fluke, laughed triumphantly, forgotten by the Glove's leash. "Reynolds can't wait another six years, Pretty Boy. The funny thing is, without your five-fingered money machine, they couldn't have afforded their little jaunt to Barnard's Star."

Greg's gut was ice and his eyes were trained on the large woman before him. She wore a suit made of a black, ridged material. It covered her from scalp to sole with one notable exception: Her left hand was bare, its nails painted maroon and gold.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

122 And Submission Stats

Just sent out story 122, a flash piece called One With Everything. Another one I didn't plan on, but there you go. Only 49 stories to go this year and only 878 more before I'm fifty! 123 is waiting in the wings, I just need Tony to send a little British postage my way. At least I think it's 123. I thought it was 122 until a couple hours ago.

That was my 603rd submission. On the occasion of my 600th submission the other night, I looked over my submissions and mentioned a few that were important to me on Twitter. Here they are again, with some extra info, for those of you that care:

* I sent out my first submission on May 8th, 1991. Almost 19 years ago.That story was called Lives and Times (Number 1 in the canon, of course). The style of the story crawled out of the 1950's and the writing was poor, of course. I still think the idea is cool enough that I won't spill it here in case I want to reuse it in the future.

I sent it to Amazing Stories. I had picked up my first copy of Amazing in high school and there was an address therein to send for submission guidelines. I was excited to receive that little pamphlet and that's what sparked my interest in writing for science fiction mags. My first dream was to be published in Amazing. That dream was the first of many to go down the shitter. :D The most wonderful thing about Amazing was that they were a major magazine that would give you feedback on your story. Even the first story you ever wrote. Even if they had to tear out your intestines and stomp on them. I got a few rejections from an assistant editor before they folded and she was deliciously ruthless. "Why don't don't they just stick a knife in you?" my then girlfriend, later former wife asked. I wish I had kept those particular rejections. They probably wouldn't look nearly as bad to me today as they felt back then.

* Made my first sale with submission 115. October 1st, 1998. Got paid in copies (5). That was a story called Better Than Anything (Story number 6), a superhero story that I still like, though I haven't read it in a long time. It was for a publication called Between the Leaves that Barnes & Noble published, of stories written by Barnes & Noble employees. I was working for B. Dalton Booksellers then, which was owned by B&N. I had already amassed a pile of rejections by that time and although they didn't pay money, I sent the story in, because I figured if I couldn't get into that book, then I super-sucked as a writer. I'm happy that I didn't super-suck. If you guys remind me, I'll post the story on this blog as it's out of print now.

* My first (and so far only) pro sale was submission 383. March 2nd, 2007. That was Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range (Story 35), published in Chiaroscuro. I created this story as a lark at work. I was working at the now defunct Linens N Things at the time. We had these teddy bear greeting cards at a register no one used, so the cards never sold. The cards had sepia-toned photos of teddy bears on them. The bear on one card looked like a pioneer sitting in front of a cabin. It looked very lonely out there by itself and I wondered what kind of horrors lurked outside of that cabin when the night fell. I wrote the first draft of the flash fiction story on a piece of receipt tape as I walked the store's aisles. I was supposed to be managing something I think, but in the long run, the story proved a much better use of my forty-five minutes.

I sent the story around and nearly wet myself with glee when I got a phone call from Harper's (yes, that Harper's) about it. It was an intern who told me that Harper's didn't publish micro-fiction, but if I could expand on the story they'd love to see the result. He also told me they loved the opening so much they posted it up on their bulletin board in the office. Harper's! You are probably more astonished by the fact that I'd have the balls to send the story there, than the fact that they asked for a rewrite. You know what they say about no guts. Needless to say, I wrote the shit out of that story. Also needless to say, they rejected it.

It soon made its way to Chiaroscuro and I considered it a long shot, because Chiaroscuro is a horror zine, but from the bears view that story was pure horror. It's no longer up at that site, because they only run stories for about 15 months, but read the zine anyway. You can listen to the audio version of the teddy story at Cossmass Infinities (and while you're there, check out their other episodes, because it's a great podcast with awesome theme music).

* I hope to hit submission 700 by the end of this year. I better hustle! I actually think my submission goal for this year was 200 submissions, so I should hit number 787 by the end of the year.

Now, back to fiction.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Friendly Reminder

I lost a dear friend yesterday and he was taken far too early. Whenever this happens the rest of us often reflect on our own mortality and our own lives. On Twitter my writer friends will occasionally remind everyone else to back up their work. We do need reminders. This post is one of those other reminders that even non-writer types get when they lose someone.

Our time is limited. Most of us have no idea exactly how limited because we don't get a countdown or a prophecy. The end could be decades away or later this afternoon. So live your life as you want to. Don't put things off. If you want to leave something behind, whether it's money, a work of art, a better world or simply someone who will think you were a good person, get to work on it now.

This is your only shot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My New Favorite Song

I haven't posted in almost a month because I haven't had anything interesting to share with you. That ends now:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Second Drafts

Last March, I did a post on final drafts, which you are welcome to read here: for the sake of naming, I am going to say that post applies to everything from the fourth draft to the final draft. Not that these are hard and fast, carved in stone or anything. I'm speaking generally and of my own work. Your results . . .

Today I want to talk about second drafts, because I happen to be working on one currently. You've got your first draft in your hand, and Hemingway said the first draft of anything is shit, so you've got your shit in your hand and strangely the first things you do don't involve any actual writing.

Step One: The first thing you do is read your shit. And it's going to be an ugly mess, just get over it and step away from the red pen. You can add notes as thoughts come to you, but don't you dare cut out a thing yet, even stuff you know is wrong. I'll talk about first drafts another time, just know that they're closer to afterbirth than babies.

Step Two: The next thing you do, and I think this is one of the most important things you do in the whole process of writing a story, is you figure out what the hell your story is about. Here's where you say, "Dude, I figured that out in the first draft, remember? There was the guy with the vegetable bomb and the lady stopped him by throwing his own mother at him and then they all drove off in race cars. I got that down!"

No. What you've got is the plot, which is what happens. We're not after what happens here, we're after what it's about. It's along the lines of one of those many literary terms I hate to use: Theme. You say, "Stuff your theme, you pretentious assbag. I've got plot and that will do." Plot will get you a story, yes, but theme will help get you resonance, that bit that's going to make people remember your story well after they're done reading it. Characterization has a lot to do with this as well. Enough of this, let's get to it.

Your scenes might not even be in the best order but by now you've got a rough idea of beginning middle and end. Even if you decide to change it up later, you've got something now. It's time to ask yourself questions. I often write them down and write down the answers as well. Questions such as:

What is this guy really after?
What is driving that lady? What makes her throw an innocent Mom?
What is this story really about?

And you might come up with answers like this:

The guy's angry about what his strict adherence to the rules has gotten him in life: mundanity, hopelessness. He's not going to eat his vegetables anymore. He's going to eat jars and jars full of jelly and he's going to turn his vegetables into explosive devices. That'll shake things up!

The lady has had a life full of stupid guys and their immature bullshit and she blames their mothers and maybe fears that she herself could be a mother like that, and gets even angrier at mothers. And their stupid sons.

The story is about this gulf between the anger of men and the anger of women, the rules they've decided on imposing upon themselves and how those rules are ravaging their lives and everyone else's.

Bear in mind that you don't have to stay up all night tearing out your hair over this. There are no right answers, there are only decisions. And yes, you're ready to make them now. Your subconscious mind has been working on this thing since you first got the idea for the spray of carrots and bursting zucchini. What if these decisions aren't the right ones? It ain't brain surgery, fix them in the next draft. The important thing is to keep moving forward.

Step Three: Now what? You look at your story again, keeping in mind what it's really about. Now you can keep the stuff that supports your new vision, cut out what doesn't and bend little bits and pieces to help support the overall structure. An example of bending: Once you've decided, yes, this is going to be a tale of psychological torture, you may want to alter the word "zany" on page three to make it read "insane." You may want to change the frog which the protagonist runs over into a raccoon because it will make the story that much heavier. All these little bits and pieces add up to an integrated whole and you can't even approach this whole until you've done step two. Finally, you might get an idea of what scenes you have to add to bring it all together.

Step Four: Write the damned thing.

"But . . ."

But what?

"But, my race cars!"

I'm sorry. The race cars will have to go. Make a separate file for your scraps and throw that scene in there so you'll never lose it and now you can forget about it. Write your second draft in a different file and keep your first if you're so attached to it. Believe me, you'll want to deny its existence some day when your kids find it in the attic trunk or you're running for public office.