Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dada's Home

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Stop Making Sense Thirty Years After Everyone Else

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

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

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

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

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

The Empire State Building Strikes Back!

Hey! My latest story, The Empire State Building Strikes Back! (number 119 of The One-Thousand) is available today on The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine! It's a fast-paced, crazy-ass science fiction story with lots of funny stuff. Go listen here:

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

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

Wolf in White Van

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

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

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

A little Robert Frost:

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

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

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

Take a look for yourself:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Are The Cloud

Great story up at Lightspeed right now, We Are the Cloud by Sam J. Miller. You can read it here:

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

Friday, September 19, 2014


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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 3 Most Important Things in Life

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

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

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