ALAMEDA TUBEWAY

 

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Being the update for March 11, 2015

 

I never know where to start these. Probably because I’m still struggling with doing these updates for people who may or may not be reading these. I mean, I already know what happened and where I’m wandering to next. Mostly.

For instance, I managed to wander into SFWA membership, based on my writing of “The Teacher” for Blizzard Entertainment a couple years back, but only qualified me for membership with a recent rules change. Perhaps I could have joined earlier, but I don’t think so. So I spent a little while getting re-acquainted with the organization and forums and such.

This was well-timed, as I was going to be heading over to FOG-Con in Walnut Creek, a relatively small local science fiction show. Wasn’t a panelist this year, as I was last, kinda too bad. Pay attention to deadlines, kids. Drove out through unnaturally warm breaks between the hills of northern California in the early March. Found my opinion of Walnut Creek hadn’t really changed (a lot like Irvine only minus any of my friends living very close to it, therefore on the dull side).

First day I attended a writing workshop, which is generally not my thing to do at all. Still found it useful to a degree, if not frustrating listening to how fast people were rattling off some of their timed exercises. You can read mine above. Of course, I was kind of an idiot and tried to turn each one into a story, so that probably hampered things on my end.

Caught a reading from Andrea Stewart and Chaz Brenchley, which turned me on to his work (I’ve known Andrea for a little while now—did my first reading with her at Bay-Con, I think, last year).

Attended a session on “Stories That Break the Rules” and while plenty of interesting stuff was discussed, but I’m at a point in my writing where I just want to know that I’m telling a story that runs from A to B to C and nobody gets too lost and things more or less make sense. I’m not into things to break rules just to break the rules. Which probably makes me a bad science fiction writer, right?

One thing that sticks out was the freebie table. I remember seeing a couple books there last year. Not many. Nor have I seen many at most freebie tables. But not this time. Books were stacked high on the table, multiple copies, multiple titles. I found it a little disturbing. Sure, I’ve seen it before at conventions, but only really big ones like SDCC or BEA. I’m not sure what to think of this move. But I’m probably too close to things to hope that just giving the book away to anyone will lead to more press and more sales down the road. Wonder if it actually works.

Freebies

Went to dinner at a place recommended by a friend. Tasty but expensive. Back to the room and not to the bar, because I really don’t do well in situations where I don’t know anyone personally. Yeah, in that regard I’m still five. Though I did actually drag myself to a mixer function before dinner where I met a bunch of pretty cool folks and I managed to survive the experience, so maybe I’m getting better.

But still, back to the room and reading after dinner. Not even reading science fiction. This makes me a bad person. Or an interdisciplinarian, I guess. THE GOLDEN GIZMO by Jim Thompson, by the by.

Woke up early. Hotel sleep, mind you. I just don’t do it well. Off to the Black Bear Diner over in Walnut Creek which whips a mean corned beef hash (seriously, all corned beef, no potatoes or onions) to keep me powered through the day. Low blood sugar kills, y’know.

Checked out a couple more writing-oriented panels, again, some useful stuff to be offered there, but so much of what’s being covered is stuff that I’ve already babbled about or gotten into arguments online about (being old does tend to wear the shine off of some things.) Though one thing I did notice is that things were often brought up like they were a new and unusual thing when, if you read outside SF, you’d see that they’re addressed all the time, even in genres as mundane as *gasp* crime fiction. So, read outside your field.

Last panel of Saturday was “Wash Your Hands Before Attending” which was one of the highlights of the show. Put two science fiction/horror writers in with a scientist and a professional in the field and you’ve got a good time. It was a great mix of looking at the literature of disease and current events and some speculation, all by folks who know what the hell they’re talking about. More of this, please.

Dinosaur

Drove down to Sunnyvale to load up on some cheap comics (Bronze Age only, please, no more than a dollar apiece if you want my business) and hang with a longtime friend over Mexican food. Then a nice, quiet drive back to Walnut Creek, taking perhaps the least direct route back, along the shores of the South Bay (more industrial, long stretches of semi-populated asphalt lots with cranes towering over the yellow gloom, the only color offered by an oddly-located carnival) to another night of no sleep.

Wake for the time-change. On a whim, I get ready fast seeing that the light was still there. Drove back to Orinda, where I’d discovered the Art Deco-styled Orinda Theatre last year. I’d taken pictures of it at night and in overcast light, but not on a bright and perfect morning. Missed the absolute best light (only caught any of it due to the time change) but did okay. Took breakfast and headed back.

Have to say the best panel of the show was “Science Fiction and Politics” and honestly, with a title like that, there were about equal chances for something good or something horrible. Luckily, it was something very good. I’m not going to go over the content in particular, other than to say that perhaps Utopianism isn’t dead. Whether or not that’s a good thing for you, I’ll let you decide. Even had a chance to meet and briefly chat with Kim Stanley Robinson, which was a surprise, but at least a pleasant one.

Tunnels

Left the show a little early to get down to Alameda (tunnels through the mountains and tunnels under the bay) to meet a friend at the Pacific Pinball Museum. Longtime readers may remember that last year I did much the same, only visiting the High Scores Arcade instead. Yeah, I’ve got a thing for old amusement devices, what can I say? Needless to say, the Museum didn’t disappoint. Great selection of old tables, all in about as good a condition as you could expect. Took a bunch of photos, hung out with a friend and had a good, rambling talk.

I’ll be honest. I don’t get out much. I live in the hinterlands. I’ve got two kids and serve as Mr. Mom. I’m almost perpetually on duty. So getting out and hanging with folks who I’m already comfortable with is not something that happens often. I appreciate it when it happens.

Drove home and wondered how I’d keep the momentum going.

Reminded the following day that anxiety is a fucking horrible roommate. It’s true. Takes up a lot of space, drops cigarette butts everywhere, bad body odor, hogs the remote, saps your will. Not sure why he chose then to show up. Probably because I see people making this work and having no idea how to do it myself. Sounds about right.

More day job stuff and thinking about different presentations for work, not as novels but as more episodic work. This last possibility is intriguing but also runs one hundred percent against my personal grain. I’ve always worked to deliver complete stories, complete experiences (with perhaps the exception of my comics work, by necessity.) But perhaps it’s a necessity now. Price low, but give enough story to make the pieces work on their own and hook into a larger whole. This is one of those the technology and market changes nudging presentations. Besides, I’m tired of hearing about people throwing up dinosaur erotica on Amazon and raking money out of it.

Not that I’m writing dinosaur erotica.

What else? Oh, turned over a weird western anthology, so I’ll be writing a STRANGEWAYS story for the first time in several years. It’s mostly plotted and lightly-researched at this point. Probably finished up by next week, just to get it out of the way. Short stories are nice like that.

Will probably take a look at RAGNAROK SUMMER and see about breaking it up as serials after some work. Depending on how this goes, perhaps I’ll use it as a model for other self-published work. Like I said, the trick is writing episodic, and not just putting out a chunk of story meant to be included in a larger whole.

To that end, I started watching HANNIBAL. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Sure, my kids like a bunch of sitcoms that I’ve absorbed whether or not I want (and they are not the best model for the kind of thing I’m doing.) So far, HANNIBAL is interesting, beautifully shot, but more importantly, episodes are successfully standing on their own which is not super-easy to pull off and still propel the larger narrative. Something I should look at learning.

Also something that comics used to do really well. I know. You’ve heard this from me if you’re an old-time FULL BLEED reader. Comics used to be giant narratives that happened to be made up of smaller sub-narratives with continuing threads that get turned and pulled enough to give a little more zing, but you could just jump in at any time. Granted, that’s dead mostly in the days of the trades. Sure, there are some writers who are balancing long narratives, but often it’s just chunks of a narrative with an arbitrary act ending twist at the 22nd page. And I’m as guilty as anyone else on that count.

Currently mainlining pop culture documentaries on the seventies and eighties, mostly music-related. It’s all research. It all goes into the hopper and something interesting can be shaken out. Sometimes.

Oh, occurs to me that I didn’t mention the bad rejection letter I got on Saturday morning. It was one of those get-angry-for-an-instant and then burst out laughing at it because of its total lack of meaningful content. So, yeah, no fucks given on that one.

At least until that obnoxious roommate comes calling again.

Next week, gentle readers.

Exercise

So, went to a writing exercise session at the convention I attended last week. Here’s what came out of it.

Frankly, it’s a miracle there’s anything here. Friday was not a good day for a number of things that aren’t fodder for discussion here. But still I went and worked.

Each of these were delivered in about a ten-minute span with a small break between, prompted by a variety of calls from the instructor.

Writing exercises -inspired by Vylar Kaftan at FOG-CON 2015

 

 

Three words: Greek, gross, wallflower

 

“Never date Greek,” she told me. Her lips pulled back so hard in disgust that I could see the teeth behind them.

I gulped more of my drink, too much sugar, not enough lime. It was a margarita in name only. “Don’t worry,” I said as I dropped the glass. Ice tumbled out in a sticky scatter on the table. “Don’t worry about me.”

The clatter of the glass caught Marcie’s attention this time. She pulled her fingers back from the spill. “You okay, honey? You hit that hard.”

“It hit me hard,” I replied. Almost as hard as the gross and greasy lunch was now. Tasty yet toxic. I considered another drink but let the thought slip away.

“You drink fast for a wallflower,” Marcie said. There was judgment behind it, flat and toneless.

“I have my reasons. And I’m not a wallflower. Just that I don’t like people too much.”

“So that’s why you’re asking for advice.”

“No. I was asking for you to give me a reason to keep slogging through all the walking left-swipes walking around campus.”

“You’re still mad about Ciro.” She caught herself, blue eyes flashing wide for a second when she realized what she’d said. “I’m sorry Tul.” Her lip wound over itself as she reached for something else to say. “But you know I’m right.”

Lunch bricked in my stomach and the lime and sugar boiled at the back of my throat. Of course she was right about it but that wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

 

 

Woke in the dark, hungry, cold. No food in sight. Nothing in sight. Submarine green and falling to opaque mist with only the rocks and rubble breaking the short horizon line.

Hungry.

Old one rose behind me, not thinking of food or anything else other than his precious words, promises that he never saw fit to keep.

Go, move. The gods demand it. His speech came without sound, through gesture and bending sinew. Fingers dancing in front of the weak light he carried, a green-glowed she’ll nearly as big as his fist. He pointed finally, reaching upwards.

Today was the day. No more hunger, he promised.

I believed him though I knew that there was nothing to build that belief on.

We watched and waited. The shifting blue above us rippled and patterned like the bellies of faraway fish, but offered nothing. Then I saw it. It started as a distant point and then grew, resolving itself into a familiar shape.

It was a fish, a large one, big enough to feed me for a week. I leaped, thinking not of the others but myself, throwing my hands out at it, lunging forward and biting.

And then I felt the carcass bite back. The fish was long dead, tasting of decay already, but but the time I understood what was happening, I was being pulled up, up, up.

 

 

“Tim, stay behind,” Mr. Rone said. He’d waited until Tim was almost to the door.

Tim froze and his shoulders bowed.

“I really don’t have time, Mr. Rone.”

“This will only take a minute. Honest.”

“Honest?” The question hung sharply in the moment.

“When have I not been?”

Tim nodded and swallowed. “Is this about me being late today? It won’t happen again.”

Mr. Rone sat at the edge of his desk. “I’m worried that you’re not taking this class seriously enough.” He rifled though the stack of recently collected papers without looking up.

“I don’t know how you can say that. I mean, I turn in all my work, and I’m mostly on time.”

“Mostly.”

“Today was a mistake,” Tim said.

“How big a mistake?” Rone’s eyes flicked up now, searching the youth.

Tim’s fingers wrung the strap of the backpack hanging on his shoulder. He swayed at the doorway, maybe thinking of stepping through it. “Pretty big.”

“I don’t think so. But there are others who would see it differently.”

“It was the wrong thing to do. It won’t happen again.”

“Don’t be so tough on yourself.”

(This one got cut off worse than most due to time, sadly. Hey, do better and come up with the situation and characters and write it all in ten minutes. Go ahead.)

 

 

Reyna’s heart rattle-spun in her chest now.

Only fifty feet.

The smoke from a nearby fire drifted between her and the car, but not enough to hide it. She wished for more smoke to cover her movement. Praying hadn’t ever changed anything so she didn’t waste her breath.

Something shuffled behind her now, followed by the metallic thud of a can hitting the concrete bodega floor. Then there was a gurgling sound that was almost a question.

One behind and how many outside now? How many that she couldn’t see?

She didn’t care. The one behind would smell through the chemicals soon enough. It would find her here. Maybe the car would start and maybe it wouldn’t. She couldn’t see a reason for it to have stopped.

Footsteps now, on the roof and behind. One, she could hide from for a few moments more, but two or five? She counted the steps in her mind as she saw the shadows moving on the far side of the alley. The silver huyndai with the open door waited.

She flung herself out the alley door, hearing the crash of shelves behind her and something babbling underneath that. Two steps in and she heard the snuffle of recognition and she kept running until she crossed the open space.

 

 

Mani sat down in the corner of the white cube, almost shrugging as she did.

Kent slammed his open palm on the glasslike window that wasn’t glass at all. “You can’t keep me here! I’ll have you up on charges.”

Mani laughed silently but Kent sensed the ridicule and glared. “What’s so funny, bitch?”

“You. You’re thinking that anyone in power here cares.”

Kent knew that she wasn’t speaking English but he heard it anyways. Anger burned in his face and he pointed. “The presentation is in two hours and if I’m not there to direct, my hopeless fucking staff will do nothing but fuck it up. The account will be lost and everything will go down in flames!”

“That’s a shame. I was thinking that if I am not returned that my daughter will not eat.”

(This one only got six or seven minutes and might’ve gotten somewhere.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKE ME ON A ROLLER COASTER

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Take me on an airplane ride…

Last week I did a quick trawl of Duotrope, which is a thing that I do now, and still seems odd to type, but if you’re at my level of professional writing, you know what it is, I’m sure. So I do a trawl, and find that there’s an anthology looking for the kind of thing that I can write. Of course, they want it on Sunday and I only saw the listing on Tuesday.

So let’s talk about process real fast. In this case, I was looking for a prompt. Something that the editors put into the anthology guidelines and gives you an idea of the kind of thing they’re looking for. Historical + cosmic horror. Okay. They also put in a statement that they were looking for an emphasis on melee weapons, not firearms.

My first impulse is to go in deep on this. So I look up “early sword making.” This gets me to tin and bronze blades, most notably from ancient Turkey. Neat, and possibly meaty, but not out there enough. I read a little bit and there’s a bit about flint blades, but also obsidian blades. And that’s something that I can go in on. One of my recent-but-not-immediate-past projects had a long line on Mayan artifacts, and I remembered that the Mayans did some work with obsidian blades (both black and green, also fanciful etched blades that must have been ceremonial and not practical at all.)

Then I got to thinking about sword/blade makers, the people behind them. There’s an anchor. Then it’s a matter of finding a potential location in both geography and time period. Dabbled with the possibility of tying it into the whole Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica (which is a grim and terrible period in human history, one that still has huge power) but decide not to wade in those pools. There’s some things that I don’t mind muddying up, but this one didn’t feel right.

From there, having a handle on the location and time (late-Terminal Mayan), it’s time to do some quick reading on technique, but also the mythology and folklore surrounding knife-making. But it’s not something that I want to linger on too much. Honestly, over-research will get in the way of the story, particularly when working at the sub-5k length I was looking at.

Then we get to the random and freeform stage where I write out a bunch of lines and impressions and try to get a handle on what the story is. See, sword-making or combat or cosmic horror or history *aren’t* what the story is about at all. Those are things in the story. The story itself works on a different level, and it’s not about that cloud of facts and impressions. It’s about people. Cosmic horror, for instance, is only effective when you can use it as a point of contrast with humanity. Otherwise you’re just cataloging a litany of bleakness and there’s no time for that.

I didn’t get a single word of non-note/planning/plotting (and I use that last one loosely) into the computer until Friday afternoon, after having dealt with what is for all intents and purposes a new job that ate up most of last week, including a wonderful little mini-crisis that wasn’t of my making but needed to be handled all the same. Friday I got maybe 1300 words in. Not bad.

This meant work all day Saturday to get the rest of the story done. And by “all day” I really mean most of the day. But still, it got out. Mostly intact from the notes.

Did another read-through on Sunday, with some minor fixes, but honestly there wasn’t time to do any major surgery, nor was I up for it, honestly. This one entitled “The Stars So Broken” came out mostly of a piece. I still feel like the action scenes are something I’m not good at, so they’re probably underplayed, but with enough zing that the reader can fill in the details. Again, I was working with a 5k word limit. In an action chapter, that length could pretty easily become an action sequence if it was written briskly enough. No such luxury in this case.

So yeah, a whole short story done in about three days of work when all was said and done. Would be nice to have more, and I certainly will for the next one.

Last week saw me get a useful rejection from THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, the first non-awful rejection I’d gotten in some time. And by “non-awful” I mean that there was actually some substance to it. Whether or not I agree one hundred percent with it, it’s advice for the next time around. Which is a valuable thing, at least if you want to sell into that market.

I also got a really lousy rejection which wasn’t so helpful, almost flippant. I suppose they thought they were being casual about it, but it didn’t read like that. So you can’t dwell on that one.

What else? Oh right, officially became a member of SFWA. Which is odd-feeling given that my mom was a member back in the seventies and very early eighties, though she hasn’t been for a long time. Anyways, odd to be a member of that organization, but life is sometimes and often odd.

Watched a couple of films (mostly while exercising as a way to keep me exercising) from my childhood. KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE at the top of the list, which is a lot like 1978-era SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE minus the Standards and Practices crew breathing down their necks. John Landis directed and the Zuckers writing, so it’s all quality period humor. Also watched the oddity KGOD, also known as PRAY-TV which features the eponymous Central Valley television station falling on hard times and reinventing itself as a 24-hour non-denominational programming source. Pretty broad satire on the big, fat target of televangelism which was only coming into its own during the period the film was made (1980). Features some fine performances from the likes of Dr. John and Devo.

Also rewatched the 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, which you really can put alongside films like THE THING and THE FLY (the 80s remakes, that is) in terms of updating the source story and making it current, making the fear resonate. Leonard Nimoy (RIP and probably a subject for another posting sometime) turns in a great performance as a pop psychologist playing counter to the rising paranoia of Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum. I’ll also note that the screenplay was by W.D. Richter, who wrote BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA as well as directed one of my favorite science fiction films BUCKAROO BANZAI. And the script is just great, taking the earlier themes of conformity and turning them on their head, instead taking punches at the steadily-anxious seventies. The film is on Netflix and Amazon Prime currently and it’s really worth your time.

Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. The above picture was from the Sac-Con show that happened last weekend here. I can’t resist taking pictures of obsolete technologies, in this case a bunch of Atari 2600 cartridges. Bought a giant pile of old comics too, but nothing more than a buck apiece.

Taking time to use guitar to unwind. Teaching myself some old Roxy Music and Joe South songs.

That’s about it for now. Let’s see what hits me next week.

Late February update

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So, this week.

Anything that I thought I’d be doing hasn’t really gotten done. I’ve more or less started a new job so writing gets put back on a shelf it hasn’t been for some time, that being the back shelf. Stuff will still be happening, but reality makes demands.

And no, I won’t be talking about the day job. You don’t want to hear about that anyways.

Writing wise, it’s been a survey of shorts markets and there’s one that looks good. Pity about the deadline, which is the end of the day Saturday for up to 6000 words. Horror. Lovecraftian, even. Which, for as much as I grouch about people putting HPL in their fiction, is right up my alley. Even better that I get to plot out a story which would have Lovecraft spinning in his grave, what with non-WASP protagonists, a female lead and a stubborn refusal to treat “primitive” societies as ignorant brutes.

Just that I have to finish this off a skeletal plot in around three days. Should be fun.

Oh, right, another batch of rejections but that’s par for the course. They were non-informative and without anything resembling constructive critique, so no fucks given. Nothing personal, y’know, ’cause taking it personally is a pretty short path to despair. I’ve done enough of that. It’s pretty easy. But in the face of pretty regular and unwavering market indifference to my work, it’s no longer a luxury I can afford. You want to talk to me about why it doesn’t work for you? Great. I’ll listen. Form rejection? Duly noted.

In the meantime, it’s probably good that I’ve got other things to work on.

The week updated Feb 18 2015

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Last week was something of a struggle. I’ll chalk it up to a short week for the kids at school and other nagging outside stuff that I have zero control over but has a major degree of control over me and let’s leave it at that

Did two things I haven’t done in a long time this week. One was submit a story for publication. In this case, it was “Through the Limbs” which I should excerpt a bit of just so you can get a taste. The publication in this instance is THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. And the submission, while it’s one of the more interesting things I’ve written, I suspect will not find a warm reception.

Maybe that’s because I haven’t worried about genre convention and to some degree can’t be made to. This is the thorniest of crowns, if you want to write for a living, by the by. I don’t recommend it unless you like the bite into your temples as it’s daily applied. Lots of people have lots invested into the purity of the genres that they represent and it’s all fiction to me. This is a blessing and a hindrance. A blessing because I can sit back and laugh at people getting very very worked up about whether to call a thing “science fiction,” “speculative fiction,” or “fantasy.” Here’s the deal. It’s all fiction. It’s all made up. Truthfully, it’s all fantasy. Every last bit of it. Just because it’s “hard” SF doesn’t make it any more likely to actually ever possibly happen than the wildest and craziest collection of elves and dragons you care to think up. If you’re elevating the work because the science is strong, well, you might be missing the forest for the trees. Honestly, most hard SF that I’ve written doesn’t understand people a damn bit, and people are what makes the world work, no matter what the rules.

So, anyway, that’s away. As is BLUE HIGHWAY/BLACK TRACE over at Resurrection house. That’s still early into its three month waiting period. Again, not holding my breath, though it would be nice for something to break, y’know?

It’s funny. I see people giving writing advice and they say “just write all the time” and if only it were as easy as that. The push to finish things becomes measurably more difficult when the feeling is that there are very few who care if the work gets finished. You have to care, sure. And then you have to divorce yourself from that attachment when nobody else gives the back end of a bifurcated rat in response.

Oh, right, the second thing that I haven’t done in some time. I applied for a job. A writing/blogging job to be more precise. I expect nothing, though the outlet would probably be a good fit for my talents, I’m not sure that what they’re looking for at this moment is something I can deliver, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to check things out.

Rest of the week (and this one) spent in revisions. A short-is (6700 words) piece called “Cluster/Song” from a few years back and “Chunked,” which is me taking a little of my own medicine and writing a story about a thing instead of just stewing about a thing. Maybe that’ll even come across. Probably will start writing drafts for a couple different ideas as well, one indeterminate-future SF and the other present-day for a change, taking on the extended lives of franchise mascots and what they’re forced to do in the time of the revamp.

While with the kids on extended weekend actually went to the movies twice. First was JUPITER ASCENDANT which is a beautiful take on Cinderella in space (featuring some subtly-Warhammer 40k-influenced design work). Shades of DUNE and SOLARBABIES and a bunch of other pieces as well. My daughter (11 going on 15) loved it and I’m glad I got her out to something that was more aimed at her likes/dislikes/sensibilities because there’s already plenty out there for my son to dig. I might have some issues with the conclusion of the story, but it had its heart in the right place.

The other film I caught was the nobody-is-talking-about-this teen/SF movie PROJECT ALMANAC, which pulled off some neat tricks and had a solid story to wrap things around (though I found a lot of the cinematography distracting) and it was clearly written for Young Men. In many ways a very nicely dressed made-for-TV time-travel/Monkey’s Paw kind of affair, which will probably be rediscovered by retrologists twenty years from now and explored thoroughly.

Watching THE HIDDEN for a screencap exploration over at the Tumblr site, and oh yeah, too much time spent re-creating the main page of my home site. Actually used CSS for the first time (like a caveman might), but not sure how far I’ll get into it. Also turned on to the pilot episode of STARSTRUCK from 1979, the pilot of 1982’s MODESTY BLAISE and the 1966 film version (which is completely bonkers). Also rewatched ASSAULT ON PRECINCT THIRTEEN which I’ll probably have more to say about later.

Current listening: Dan Terminus (I’d recommend the album at Bandcamp, but it looks like it’s been yanked since Blood Music will be putting it out later this year) and Unit Black Flight’s very Carpenter-inspired TRACKS FROM THE TRAILER. The latest Carpenter Brut is also getting a lot of play.

Also read the first of Gene Wolfe’s BOOKS OF THE NEW SUN, SHADOW OF THE TORTURER and just wow.

Back to work.

Update Feb 10 2015

 

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Riverside Drive, Los Angeles 2000

Yeah, I missed yesterday sorry. Actual deadlines and a bunch of frenzied work on the main page of my website (that being highway-62.com) kept me from doing any updates. But hey, paying work before that which does not pay. Blogging sure doesn’t. (But then neither does my writing, he said as he looked over his Amazon returns for the year). I’d probably be better off running a Patreon, but that’s just not the way I work.

Speaking of writing, a bit of it last week. Rewrites on “Through the Limbs”, that being a near-future SF piece that combines consumerism, rebellion and Ballardian horror. I expect there to be a *big* audience for that one. Did a fair amount of work on the upcoming STRANGEWAYS graphic novel, entitled THE LAND WILL KNOW. Some very good work coming from the artists involved on that one. Some pretty okay scripting from me. But let’s be honest, people buy those for the art and then get drawn in by the script. It’s comics, I get that. The writers are important, but they only really drive fan business on the big characters. Breaking new stuff is a slow and frustrating process.

This week has been me going through Froot Loops detox, a return to 3D modeling and animation, which I used to be pretty good at, musing on the nature of low-resolution digital photography and low level simmering panic. Regarding Froot Loops, kids, just don’t get into them. They’re bad for you and they make you feel bad afterwards. And honestly they’re not that tasty to begin with, but I couldn’t resist a box bigger than my head for the low price of five bucks. My loss, my regret following.

Jumped back into Lightwave 3D, as I had a job that required me to dummy up some stuff which would be way too hard to do in Photoshop, and honestly, it’s an interesting set of tools to work with. I used to be a professional animator, and while there were some happy accidents, I never got to work on jobs I was ever that pleased with (rushed production schedules on MAX STEEL and DAN DARE saw to that). Add to that how badly the studio was doing at the end of the nineties/early 2000s and it was an educational experience but not a fun one.

These days I’m much more interested in the abstract and even hermetic/esoteric. I’ll probably turn the tools towards those ends as I monkey with things, maybe with an eye towards making more Identify 9 cover art, but the time for music has been pretty short lately. Just don’t expect renderings of your favorite superheroes or whatever. I’m done with the obsession with the photoreal. Once was a time that I chased after that muse, though.

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Space Marine Dreadnought, modeled in 1999. Dig the sunbeams.

Ah, photography. Spent some time thinking about the old photos I took pre-Leica, and how small and pathetic they are (my earliest with a Kodak DC90 only being 2200×1500 pixels in size) compared to the truly monstrous pictures I can take these days. Those years will be marked by jpeg compression and small file sizes (as well as muddy focus) in the same way that Kodachrome reds will mark the fifties through the seventies. Won’t get a chance to take those pictures again. The time is locked up in those images, never to be unpacked again. Can’t create data where there isn’t any, y’know. I might make them bigger, but no sharper.

This week’s movies have been THE WILD BUNCH and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING. Both are amazing motion pictures in their own right, THE WILD BUNCH in particular (though probably not the best that Peckinpah, did – that’s got to be BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA). Both reach way past their pulpy men’s action surfaces and bring out some real.

Probably will finish up revisions on “Through the Limbs” for submission to actual magazine audiences. I’ve kinda given up on writing shorts to put on the Kindle store. New markets won’t touch ‘em even if you haven’t sold a single copy. Reprint markets might, but my luck with those is spotty at best. Speaking of which, I did do a lot of revisions to an earlier fantasy piece entitled “The Bulwark” for inclusion in an anthology last week. I’m expecting nothing, but sure would like it to get picked up. Following “Limbs” I’ll finish shaping up “Chunked” which is a pretty personal story, strangely. I suspect that one will make me a lot of friends if it ever gets a wider audience. Yeah, expecting people to do better never makes you popular, confirmation bias imperative and all that.

Back to work. Currently listening to: Roxy Music Live in 1972.

 

02 February 15 – Rainbow Scales

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Trying to keep up with regular posting. Also trying to make it a habit to include some visual stimuli (almost always taken from my own photos because c’mon, this isn’t hard) to fire multiple brain lobes. The above taken in The Serpentarium in Lodi, CA a couple weeks back.

Work continues on revising “Chunked” and “Through the Limbs” (thanks to buddy Jack Feerick for feedback on that one). Also started up a new story, no title yet. Feeling like all of these works are linked thematically, but I’ll let others figure out if that’s really true or just me trying to build a franchise out of nothing. The tough part is winnowing these down so that they’re short stories of no more than 10K words and not actual novellas, when all of them could be fully-fledged novels. This is another near-future SF piece, could take place in ten years or fifty, really. I suppose that thought depresses some folks. But the dilation of the present into The Long Now (particularly in pop culture) is something that’s always fascinating to me.

Sent out BLACK TRACE to actual publishers in NYC. I know, but I gotta do something with it. I’m clear on the fact that putting e-books out there for little or nothing in the hopes of trawling up clicks isn’t a good strategy. But keep in mind that once you put a book or story out there, most folks won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

In addition, worked on a pitch for a media franchise piece, that would be fun to do but I really hold out no hopes for. And yeah, go ahead and call me out on working on a media franchise when I’m not a big fan of reboots. Go ahead. I can take it. Besides, this is more like thing-as-launching-pad and not endlessly-recreate-permutations-of-thing-for-content-treadmill. Yeah, there’s a difference, but it’s usually a lot more of one than the other, and one’s a lot more fun.

Filmwise, watched THE HIDDEN, NEAR DARK and THE WILD BUNCH. All of which are worth your time and focus. Might get around to talking about them sometime, but planning on doing a screenshot study of parts of THE HIDDEN, which punches way above its weight class.

Got some new art from Gabriel Hardman on STRANGEWAYS and am honored to be working with him. Beautiful and powerful stuff, far better than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be pretty good. Probably won’t be teasing any previews for a little while, though. Honestly, it wouldn’t make much sense anyways.

Sounds? Get on these: The Flenser – BODUF SONGS, Dan Terminus – THE WRATH OF CODE (synthwave like you like it) and the new album by Noveller, FANTASTIC PLANET.

Reading? I’ve been bad. Yeah, sorry.

2015 Missive

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Hey there. First in a regular series, attempting weekly-ish updates of all happenings at Highway 62 Central.

Oh, why doughnuts? Does anyone really in their heart of hearts not like doughnuts? That’s why.

So, 2015 begins with me not having my regular long-term/freelance gig going. If anyone out there reading this wants me to pitch you something, don’t be shy. I can write anything. Really. Anything.

To that end, I’m working on revisions for “Through the Limbs” for regular submissions, and no, it won’t be out on the net for free unless the publisher wants to do it like that. There’s lots of people who say they want to read free work, but they don’t want to publicize it or talk it up or help spread it around. Which is really the only reason to put out the free work, right? I suspect this works a lot better for work that couldn’t find a paying home for legal reasons, like say One Direction fanfiction with or without the serial numbers scrubbed off. And yeah, when I went to Wattpad to get readers, I saw a lot of fan-fiction, by far the most overwhelmingly omnipresent genre as a whole.

I don’t write fanfiction. Lots of people do. My whole thing is to write something as interesting and engaging as the stuff I like, but not to write more X-Men books. Sure, there’s plenty of properties and characters I’d love to write, but they’re not mine to do so. Maybe I’ll get a chance one day.

So yeah, “Through the Limbs” which is near-future science fiction/Ballardian horror in revisions. As is “Chunked” which is one of the more personal things I’ve written, oddly. It’s also near-future SF with a touch of some other familiar horror as well. The draft of that one was finished last week. It needs a bit more work, but I’m trying to learn to draft then step aside and come at things fresh, which has not always been my method.

Additionally, last week saw me finish the scripting for STRANGEWAYS’ third volume, entitled THE LAND WILL KNOW. There’s only one story out of the batch that needs an artist, though I think the original artist announced on it can finish things, but I want to firm that up before I go around talking about it. Also need a cover artist. I’m hoping that the whole works will be coming out this year, but won’t promise it.

One of the things holding me back is that my 13″ cintiq tablet no longer works with my desktop computer, no matter how much Wacom wants it to just be a new driver issue. New driver installed and I can’t even find the tablet on my system. Which means it’s computer lettering or pay someone to do it. That problem hasn’t been solved just yet.

Have a pitch out for a property that I don’t own, but have some affection for. Maybe something will come of that, but don’t hold your breath.

 

EDGED – Full Bleed goes to the William Gibson show

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The last time I tried to attend a William Gibson signing was the day that my father-in-law decided to start punching out. I was about twenty miles from home when I got the call and turned around. Anyone who saw it as a surprise wanted to see it as a surprise. He was dead some two months later.

I’m positive that I never drove to the store to claim the book that I’d pre-ordered, now that I think about it. And my father-in-law is still around every time my wife thinks about him.

So going out this time felt like throwing a switch or completing a circuit. Or maybe it was just me kidding myself into thinking that retracing my footsteps was pushing into uncharted territory. But isn’t that just the process of rewriting?

Honestly, there aren’t too many authors/bands/etc that I’d go make the five-hour return trip for, even if just to listen to music and drive and not think about anything for half a day. Which is something I used to do a lot of, but then responsibility set in.

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And while the sky over San Francisco wasn’t the color of a dead channel (not enough green), the fog was eating the city hard by the time I got there. Turns out that the only traffic I ran into was that of my provincial and remote Sacramento, no apparent reason behind it other than to exercise the clutch foot. But then having a stick-shift in San Francisco is a lot of fun if you’re the head of the line at the light or need to zip across Oak to beat oncoming traffic. Car’s got low-end if you get into second fast enough but not too fast. Stay in first too long and you better jump to third unless you like the grind.

The Haight (no I don’t go there usually—sticking more to Hayes Valley and the Sunset) is a lot like the longest line to get into a Jethro Tull concert you’ve ever been in. The street economy seems to be based on selling reefer and shrooms to outsiders and finding ways to scam into the bathroom at the Whole Foods. Though there’s excellent carnitas to be found at El Faro, which is right next to the Booksmith, where the signing was going on.

I lucked out and found parking right in front of the store, watching as a dented Prius nosed its way out. That should have been my first clue that there was no way my car was going to fit without making an insurance claim first. Still, I’m stubborn.

Burned up the next twenty minutes driving down too-tight streets, deciding not to park next to the McDonald’s where it looked like someone had been handing out pit bull puppies six months ago and everyone was coming back for a reunion, noses to tails all leashed by loops of rope that must have come from a hardware store. Found parking at ten of six and waited ’til then for it to magically stop being a tow-away zone, blasting “Turkish Leather” as the minutes ticked down.

Carnitas and Jarritos lime and fresh-fried tortilla chips with perfect salsa (go for the ‘hot’ – it’s okay, I promise) for dinner, watching LeBron thwarted in the first half against the Knicks. He’s got to get the game out of his head and just play it. Walk up and down Haight and feel like there’s way too many people in one place for this to be a good idea. Artisanal stained glass, Tibetan gifts, micro-fashion lines, vinyl toys both individually-marked and mass-produced franchise totems. And musical instruments. Lingering for a long time at the sealed Moog Sub 37 box. Never touched one. Would like to before I commit.

Watching a place try and maintain its reputation always is a little sad. Las Vegas does it with such gusto that I can’t help but admire it. Los Angeles is impassive, dragging its history behind it. The Haight doesn’t ever want anyone to forget 1967 (not that I can, but I was an original issue back then). And since I identify more with the music of the Velvets and the Stooges (though I’m west coast to the core), I can’t get behind the veneration. Especially the Dead, though I’d like to have heard a show through the Wall of Sound even if I’ve got no patience for their music.

Arrive at Booksmith in time to get a seat, which was a welcome surprise, given that their website said that seats were gone that morning (I checked – and the internet always lies.) Sit down, document, obsess. Think about how this should have been four years ago, wonder if those cuts will heal up right or if I should just avoid them altogether. Crack THE PERIPHERAL and admire the ease with which it comes off. I know it’s not easy, though. That’s another lie. That whole perfect draft. The myth of the accident. The accident can lead you down another path is all. Still have to put in the work.

Liking the parallel narratives and wondering exactly how they’re going to be bound together. Which is nice because I’m beta reading a thing which is trying the same thing and just isn’t working. Maybe it’s the lack of tension between the past/present that’s not working. Either way, THE PERIPHERAL is doing it in a way that does and I can already see a re-reading will be demanded (which lemme tell ya, doesn’t happen often.)

William Gibson is not yet Burroughs-gaunt, which comes off a little more Lovecraftian than I meant it to. I’m still delighted by the tension between the perception of his writing (particularly with the Sprawl trilogy) and his demeanor out in the real world. He’s not trying. He just is. Authenticity remains the best disguise.

Talk of spoilers, which is perhaps the singular post-internet contribution to the participation experience which nobody saw coming. Left me wondering about the co-evolution of the forms and delivery methods, particularly in serial entertainments. But then that’s what the broadcasters would want us focusing on, the singular experience of watching a thing as it happens. Yet AGRIPPA is cracked and posted before the livecast in 1994 or whatever year it was. The ultimate spoiler. Because someone could.

I may have to get THE PERIPHERAL on audio, if only to hear the emphasis that doesn’t always come out in the text, though I could see as flat a reading as possible working. But Mr. Gibson’s read, injecting more than a little bit of “Oh we’re fucked” mixed with ego-manipulation artist-brand-management was nice. Maybe the audiobook is all him and that would be fine.

Audience mix is odd. I’m not the oldest guy there, which is how it is when I go to concerts these days (though I think there was a guy older than me at the Earth show in September.) Older than the bands now. Mix of questions. Talk of multiple Cory Doctorows creating their own panverses by merely discussing them. Magazines as printed (and expensive) novelty-aggregators in the days before the firehose of novelty we call the internet (you know, 1992 and earlier). Reinforcement of the notion that science fiction is really about the time that it’s written in. Mulling over that thought as I looked at the science and sociology sections while I was in line and thinking that the temporality statement needs to be broader and how that would be a really unpopular thing for me to say. Oops.

A perhaps surprising thing he brings up is that he doesn’t read fiction when he’s writing. I feel like I shouldn’t discuss the reason why, even though he did in a relatively public moment. Though it’s more quasi-public, not livestreamed, so I’ll honor the moment and not spoil the surprise other than to say that it’s a feeling I’m all too accustomed-to. Though I’m not sure that sharing this personality tic is encouraging or depressing. I’ll try to see the half-full glass.

And remember that just because someone likes an author you like and went to a signing doesn’t mean that they’re a person you’ll want to be around, if the guys behind me in line were any indication. Walking talking snark with nothing genuine to say other than a grouch about having to get up for a meeting. Try harder, boys. There’s a whole big world out there if you’re willing to stick your neck out a little.

Line is moved briskly, forced by necessity. It snakes to the back of the store while Mr. Gibson is ushered to the front, fielding questions about a very particular anime statuette that may or may not have been presaged by his works, which is one of those questions that says more about the questioner than the recipient. I hold onto my copy of THE PERIPHERAL and STORMING THE REALITY STUDIO, now battered and nicked from more than twenty years. You may not know this, but I’m not good with humans out in the wild. Never particularly have been. Not comedy-level or anything, just an odd fit though I can pass as almost normal if you don’t squint too hard.

Mumble some words to Mr. Gibson about packing efficiency and how a twitter exchange triggered “Tug on the Ribbon” while I pass that and a book of my photographs (Los Angeles, as seen in 101 NORTHBOUND) over to him. He graciously accepts and feel like maybe I’m slowing the line down too much and reminded of my maladjustment.

Some circuits don’t close so easily, I guess. Glad to seal off those that I can, though.

Grabbed some available light and took a few pictures, just to remind myself that the story is everywhere. Where’d those boots come from? Who’s giving the practiced street kids all these pitbulls? When will 1967 end?

Haikai No Ku on the stereo through the mist and the drive over the bridge. The Art Deco one, not the sweep of white over the Bay like the spokes of a recycled plastic pennyfarthing tooling over the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Eight cylinders throw a growl on the 101 as I drop to fourth and drop up a lane.

BLACK TRACE

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BLACK TRACE, my first science fiction novel, is up in part over at Wattpad and WriteOn (probably in a few other places at well). Wattpad is just the easiest to link to. I plan on running the first several chapters, enough to give folks a sense of the story and the setting. I have no plans to put the whole thing on the internet, much less for free.

Go on and give it a look.

You’ll see me use the word “nopocalypse” in reference to this. More on that later.

Here’s the back cover copy, were it printed and had a back cover to put copy on:

After the Great Big Zero.

After the United States came untied.

Life went on.

 

Jake Culver is a driver, a fixer and an enigma. Out in the no man’s land of desert California, people don’t often ask what anyone did before or how they got there. But now the state police are asking him and he doesn’t have the luxury of refusing an answer.

Left no choice, he agrees to return to his old haunts in the manufactured paradise of Orange County. The Orange Trust runs it like a company town, which would be fine if Jake and the man at the top didn’t share the baddest of blood. Jake’s got only days to find out who’s stealing from the hotbed of high-tech, and to find if it’s the same someone who is trying to get the biggest criminal organizations in the county to pick a very public war with one another.

From the cracked asphalt and no rules motorized combat beyond the reach of authority to the regulated cool of the icehouse and back again, Jake and his reluctant partner Tommy Manh dig through the above-ground and underground of a decadent near-future California. The chase leads them both through the abandoned subway tunnels run by the electrified Mozarts and the subtle digitality of the Weave, to the neon playground of Fascination Street.

But all the paths Jake finds lead him back to his past, a past that is fast overtaking him.