Cleaning Out the Fridge

If you follow this blog then you know a few things about me.  I’m a writer; I’m a little bit nuts; and I’m a geek.  These days I don’t know how large of a geek that would be, due to all the brolash that has come up in the last few years about who is “fake” (usually women) and who isn’t (usually the bros makin’ up the rules).  Needless to say my creed is good, and while I might not be able to tell someone exact issue and page for whatever comic one might use as a litmus test for pureness, I know I could come back with my own set of questions that would put them right down on their ass.

As such, many of my friends are geeks in various areas, and many of them were watching closely when the cast pictures for the new Star Wars film was released.  And the thing that a majority of them noticed right away:  one new female actor, one male actor who is black, and a whole lotta white light sabers flashin’ around.  Oh, and Andy Serkis to likely motion capture an alien meant to represent whatever racial stereotype the movie is inadvertently mocking, cause yeah, gotta go there.

At this point it’s difficult to say that if you’re doing any sort of story within a “universe”–which, admittedly, is a pretty big place–it’s not going to be easy to explain away why one doesn’t have more women in their stories, or don’t have more people of color wandering about.  Particularly in geek entertainment, where even in the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century, a large number of stories have women for one of various reasons:  to act as the romantic interests for the male characters, to come off as a bit of fan service for the bros, or to get Fridged and lead one of the male characters into their huge moment of angst.  Naturally, the first two reasons are not mutually exclusive from the last, which allows one to hit the trifecta if you’re really wanting to go in that direction.

I was telling a friend the other day that I had someone looking over my current work in progress, and they had a couple of comments.  The first was, “You have a lot of women.”  And the second was, “And a lot of the characters aren’t Caucasian.”  I asked them if that was a good or bad thing, and the response was, “Well, there are a lot of women in the story . . .”  And that’s true:  it’s pointed out that, in The Foundation, it’s a Lady’s World, with the women outnumbering the men about three-to-one.  At the school the ratios are even higher:  in the student body the girls outnumber the boys about four-to-one (something that Kerry points out to another student), and as far as staff and instructors go . . . never mind:  The Queens Conquer–and have.

As they say, lets look at the cards–literally:

You can't tell who's going to lay into you in class without a score card.

You can’t tell who’s going to lay into you in class without a cheat sheet.

These are just my instructors–the situation is different with the staff.  Three out of four positions are held by women, and the director of security is half-Egyptian.  And all of the support staff are female–you don’t see them, but I do.

But running across my instructors, we have five men in that group.  Fitzsimon Spratt is a black man from Jamaica and Shuthelah Kady is from Turkey.  Holoč Semplen is the lone white male coven leader from the Czech Republic.  And Mathias and Adric are white guys from Canada and England, there for comic relief–just kidding.

Going across Deanna is Iraqi; Harpreet Bashagwani is Indian; Ramona Chai is Chinese.  I haven’t yet worked out Wednesdays full history, but it’s pretty much a given she’s a white girl from New Mexico.  Jessica is black; Helena is half-white, half-Māori.  Maddy, Vicky, and Erywin are white; Polly Grünbach is half-white, half-Moroccan, Inyx Armanjani is from Azerbaijan, and Tristyn Julin is a black woman from South Africa.

Of the five coven leaders four are women; two are white, one is Iraqi, one is black.  One is an Atheist, one is Muslim, two are Wiccans.  One is divorced, one is widowed.  One has never been married, and one is a lesbian in a relationship with another instructor that’s lasted thirty years.  Out of my instructors and staff five are gay/lesbian (sorry:  no bi or trans–yet), and all of them are in relationships–two of the couples are right there in the school, though you haven’t seen the second one yet.

I decided when I started this that if I’m going to represent the world, I had to represent.  I had to bring in people from everywhere, and try and make things as representative as possible.  In time these names will change, new people will arrive–maybe the school will even get more guys.  But I will try and keep a world view; I’ll try and keep things representative.

‘Cause, this being the 21st Century an all, you gotta know there’s a whole universe out there in which to play.  And it’s a very diverse place.


Ah, the weekend.  That transitional period where you go from one miserable week to another, usually stressed out from catching up on all the stuff you didn’t get to do during the week.  Mine are like that from time to time, and then there are moments when it’s all about relaxing and playing with something new.

First off, there was this writing thing I do, and what I was going to do next.  I thought and thought and thought–okay, maybe I only thought a little, but drama, people–we gotta have it.  I’ve decided that my story Replacements, which I wrote for consumption on another site, is a good little project to edit, then format, for self-publishing.  The last thing I had published was back in May, and I should get something else out and up before the end of the year.

Since Replacements isn’t a novel in search of a home, or something that’s a continuation of one of a couple of series that are ongoing, it’s made a good candidate for finding a home at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon, as well a some points in-between.  It’s also twelve thousand words, so there’s room to expand the story, maybe go into a little more detail on some areas–like how the new Olivia fell into her role as mistress–and not blow this up into another novel.

It seems to be the best way to go:  editing, with a little rewriting, as well as getting something new out in the end.  All for the low price of $2.99!

But wait!  There’s more!

I’ve been playing with some 3D modeling programs the last week.  Blender has been one, Hexagon has been the other.  Mostly I’ve been playing with things in Hexagon, which is an easy program for one to learn the basics, then trying to create the same things in Blender, which is far more powerful a program, but–as everyone tells me–has a extensive learning curve.

One of the things I’ve played with is modeling space ships–in particular, one I ran for a game called Diaspora.  The ship my players “owned” was named The Divine Comedy, and the idea was to make the ship look as “realistic” as possible.  I knew what I wanted it to look like, but all I had, up until now, were sketches and a few notes.

But now, I have this:

Divine Comedy 03

What do we have here?  Up front you have the main docking port.  The big round thing is a centrifuge, and inside are modules that change position depending on which way “Down” is for any given moment–meaning, if the drive is burning, down is towards the back towards the engine, and if they are coasting, down is towards the short, outer wall of the centrifuge casing.  On top you have the comm tower.  There are two cargo doors between the centrifuge and the radiators–those wings on either side of the ship, which are used to get rid of heat.  On the girders you have the fuel tanks, then a large and thin shadow shield to keep pesky radiation away from the crew.  Then you have the reactor, and the engine nozzle.  Not how we often think of space ships in science fiction, but this is a lot closer to reality than anything you will see on television, or in the movies.

After that, I wanted to try my hand at something else from another story idea.  It’s sort of a alternate history/future history that could end up being very Rocketpunkish (you can look that up here), and one that’s been bouncing about for a few months.  One of the key moments in the story is involves the construction of a very large space station which acts as a transfer station to the Moon and points beyond, and what my characters do to make this happen.

What does this station–which I have imaginatively named Station One for now–look like once it’s built?  Like this:

Station One 01

It’s a huge assembly.  From one docking center to the other, it’s 210 meters long, or 688 feet if you’re not into the whole metric thing (even though you should be), and from one set of solar panels to the other it’s 170 meters, or 558 feet high.  This thing would need a couple of football stadiums to sit inside, and even then it’d pop out of whatever sort of roof you have over those joints.

At the one end are a couple of very rough models of ships that I’d use in the story.  At the center, before the solar panel towers, are four living modules, each one 38 meters high by 16 meters in diameter, set upon a centrifuge producing .3g gravity.  About the only thing missing are circular tunnels that allow people to walk from one module to the other without needing to climb up to the center, then head down to another module.

To give you a sense of scale, there is something below the station that looks like a fat goose flying in formation.  That’s Skylab, the one and only.  As big as it was, it’s miniscule compared to what I’m thinking of creating in my story.  Actually, one of the ideas in my story is that Skylab is saved and used as a work shack for the people putting Station One together–at least until they can get large living modules in place.

One of the things that’s nice about doing this sort of thing is being able to take a vision you have for something that could end up in a story, and give it a sort of physical presence.  Yes, it’s still fantasy, but now it’s a fantasy that one day may just show up as an illustration inside a story.

Just give me time, ’cause neither of us knows where this is going.

That’s always fun.

Service For the Common Fan

With time on my hand until my next project–meaning by this time next week I’ll be laying out the research for something–I was playing with my 3D modeling program, where I roughed out a design for a ship I created for a role playing game, and I looking through social media.  I shouldn’t say, “Looking through social media,” because that sounds as if I was searching for something.  The reality is you just wait for a notification to pop up, and you decide if it’s worth your while to respond.

Time and again I’ll find something on Facebook that sorta, kinda pisses me off.  This is something I’ve written about a few times, and the Internet being what it is, I’ll probably write about it some more in the future.  Probably about the time a few dozen of my friends posts the legal notice that Facebook can’t “own” their post, and resulting counter-posts that tell them they’re full of shit . . .

One of the things that was going around the other day was the picture of a tee shirt emblazoned with the words, “Cancel Glee and Renew Firefly“.  While I understand the fan base for Firefly is almost second to none–well, when compared to some fan bases–my reaction, as a geek, comes in two stages.  One, Fox, and every other network out there today, is looking to make money.  Glee makes buttloads of money for Fox, and the thought that they’d dump a cash cow like Glee for a show that didn’t make it through its one and only season is pretty much up there with the unshaken belief that I was going to win that half-billion dollar Powerball drawing last night–which is to say, pretty ludicrous.

Then there’s idea two, which is:  it’s over.  It’s been ten years.  Let it go.  You’ll feel better.  Really, you will.

When Your God Joss even says that bringing back the show is a little crazy, because, on top of everything else he’s said that he’d need to ruin the careers of more than a few of the actors to make the show happen, you know it’s not going to happen.  We’re not talking about a situation where a studio discovered later that, hey, this show we canceled a few years back is still making a lot of money for us, lets try making some movies and see what happens–no, this is a case of, “Yeah, it makes a bit of money for us, but we tried the movie thing, didn’t really work out–oh look:  Fringe is on!”

I know Browncoats are a . . . shall we say, enthusiastic group, and they’ll find for their show until the end of time.  I don’t blame them, because I understand fandom, I understand geekness, and there have been a few things that have happened to my favorite shows and stories that have left me a little weepy in the end–

But then I got over it and moved on to something else.

This attitude isn’t unique to the Browncoats.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last fifteen years, you probably know how butthurt many Star Wars fans have been since the reissuing of the Special Editions, and the appearance of Episode 1:  The Phantom Menace, and the two movies that followed.  To say “George Lucas raped my childhood!” is a fair bit of hyperbole is something of an understatement, and I’ve seen statements from fans that have gone well beyond that discussion.  Seriously, though:  if Greedo shooting first = your childhood being raped, your childhood sucked tree roots from the start and you can’t come to grips with that fact, or you’re simply batshit insane.

Out of fairness I will say:  I’ve never been a fan of Star Wars, and I’ve been known to say in private conversations that George Lucas is a hack.  That said, as far as I’m concern, the franchise was George’s property for decades, and as its creator, if he wanted to CGI Han in a tutu for the Original Trilogy, it’s his damn business.  See, that’s what comes from creating something:  it’s yours, and you can change things if you are able.  Some times changes make sense, other times not, and some will be plain damn stupid.  But when it’s yours, then if you feel you need to fix or change something, you can.

That’s why we have these things known as “Director Cuts” of movies, or “Unabridged Versions” of books.  The guy who helped create the magic wants to show you what they really wanted, and they change things.  Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad; sometimes it’s genius.  Usually there’s some groaning from some corner of the fanbase, but that’s okay, because that is the nature of some people, to groan because someone had the temerity to change their favorite thing!

It’s this last thing that sort of gets my hackles up more than a little, that fans believe that once you put something out there that they love and cherish–nay, they have the need to possess it with their heart and soul–it becomes theirs.  Every scene, every word, even the actors who walk about the stage and help create the characters–it all makes some fans act like a seagull from Finding Nemo:  mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!

There is one expression from this base that is usually reserved for an actor or actress who has left a successful franchise  but who left an incredible mark during their tenure–and that expression is, “They need to come back and do (guest shot, cameo, on-screen strip) because they owe it to the fans!”

My question is always the same:  “Why?”

Actors, directors, and writers don’t owe it to anyone to keep retreating the same ground over and over because it’s going to give some of their fan base the fix for the jones they have.  I used to hear this after George Clooney had moved on from ER and was doing movies:  “He needs to come back for a few episodes because it owes it to the fans.”  Actually, no, he doesn’t.  Also heard that about Jim Carry:  “He needs to do another (Ace Ventura/Dumb and Dumber) because he owes it to the fans.”  Again, he doesn’t–though that last movie is suppose to be in the works, but I think it’s more about owing money to people than owing anything to fans.

Sure, fans have done great things to keep certain properties going well beyond the point where they should have died.  But many have also developed a sense of entitlement about some properties as well, acting as if, by the mere fact they’ve watched a set of DVDs 3,204 times in the last seven years, and are going to watch them again this coming weekend, that you, the actor, the director, the writer–you owe it to them to keep going back to this well and make them happy!

This isn’t something new.  Anyone remember The Final Problem being the last ever Sherlock Holmes story ever written?  Of course you don’t.  That’s because, even though Holmes and Moriarty did a header into the swirling waters of the Reichenback Falls, Arthur Conan Doyle later wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles–which was set before The Final Problem–and eventually brought Holmes back to life in The Adventure of the Empty House.

The reason for this return is often said to have been due to “pressure from the fans” to bring their favorite detective back to life.  This could be more truthfully be called, “Conan Doyle was dealing with crazy ass fanboys,” and you’d be right on the money.  After The Final Problem was published, fans took to the streets wearing black armbands and wandering about pissed off.  Conan Doyle’s publisher received tones of hate mail, and death threats were sent to author.  People created “Keep Holmes Alive” clubs, and wrote their own fan fiction where Holmes not only didn’t die, but probably had sex with the writer afterwards.

In short, Conan Doyle suffered the wrath of obsessive fans who felt he owed it to them to keep writing about Sherlock, and since he didn’t know if one of these people was an ancestor of Annie Wilkes, he muttered the Victorian gentleman’s equivalent of, “Screw this noise,” and got to puttin’ pen to paper.

It’s a problem for us creative types, that if we get “popular”, then we need to understand that not only might we be the subject of adulation, but of more than a few people who are going to accuse us of being sell-out hacks, blind to the needs of fandom everywhere.  When the later happens, there are a few avenues available.  We can fall prey to the scorn, and just give up ever dealing with these people; we can take fandom with a grain of salt and create as best an interface as possible; we can even become a fan darling and do what we can to make them all nice and happy . . .

Or, we can just laugh all the way to the bank, because it’ll always be there, and make the best of the situations.  For example, George Lucas finally said, “The hell with it,” and sold Star Wars to Disney for four billion and change.  Now The Mouse can deal with all the butthurt coming their way when they bring Darth Vader back from the dead, happy in the fact they’ve made a billion dollars from fan off a movie that will likely raped a new generation of childhoods.

As for George, he’ll probably keep doing this:

Yes, he’s making fun of the people who got all over his shit about changing a pivotal scene in Episode IV.  And he did it by wearing a tee shirt that more than a few geeks have bought to show their displeasure at his change.

And you know who made that tee shirt?  A company owned by . . . George Lucas.

Well played, Sir.  Well played.

Crazy World Burning Love

The NaNo front is sort of quiet.  I remember this time last year, with most people in a thanksgiving coma by about four PM (which, by the way, is not caused by the tryptophan in turkey meat, but by the amount of crap you pound down your gullet.  Just ask the Mythbusters), the few people who stumbled out to the NaNo group on Facebook were crying for sprinters, because they were behind.  As for me, I ended last Thanksgiving with a word count of 83,625, and finished the novel the next day–which would be, today!

Interesting thing is that I only wrote 1,476 words for last Thankgiving, meaning I didn’t make my daily total.  I sort of made up for it by writing 3,063 words on Black Friday, and putting the End on the last chapter.  I know that’s not going to happen today–I’m likely going to stick to my schedule and do my two thousand plus, and still finish up on Sunday or Monday, but it’s now a question of whether I’ll be sitting at sixty-five thousand words at the end, or hovering close to seventy thousand.  Right now the numbers tell me sixty-five, but we’ll see.

When I’m not nose-deep in the computer screen writing–and dealing with the pain in my neck-shoulder combination, which was brought on by all this writing–I’m thinking, and having strange dreams.  Last night was no different, because the sucker was all over the place.  At one point I went on stage with The Who, sometime in 1972, to sing Going Mobile with Pete–which, if you know your Who History, was never performed life.  Really, you had to be there:  it was pretty smokin’.

There was another point where I found myself reading minds, and one of the said mind readings was of a friend who apparently did a lot of his vertical fantasizing around female superheroes, and their . . . powers.  There were a lot of faces I recognized  because I do know more than a few female superheroes, but there was one that really surprised me, because when the image of the Phoenix came up, said person wasn’t Jean “I’m Always Coming Back From the Dead!” Grey; it was the image of one of my characters–

Who would probably like that comparison, were she a real person.

Audrey Dahl, from my Transporting series, is one of my favorite characters.  She’s crazy–and not always in a good way–she’s geeky, she’s bright . . . she’s got powers out the wazoo.  She and her Psychic Twin, Cytheria, are the two most powerful “Talents” in the world I created for the 32nd Century, and they are well aware of this fact.  So do a lot of other people in their government, which is why if they ever decided to go rogue and start killing shit, someone might try nuking them from orbit–it’s something I point out in one chapter of the first book, where Cytheria indicates that The Ripley Solution would likely be the only way to take them out if the government decided they needed to shuck this mortal coil as soon as possible.

Isn’t all powerful, but the list of things she can do is impressive.  She is a telekinetic, which means she can throw very large things at you with her mind.  She can also levitate, which is sort of scary, because she’s afraid of heights.  She can not only read minds, but she can get right into your mind and do some pretty crazy thing.  Oh, and she’s a pyrokinetic, which means when all else fails, she can throw fire balls at you–or big ass streams of fire, for that matter.

Sounds very Phoenixy, right?  The only difference between Audrey and Jean is that Audrey isn’t a ginger, she’s blond, so she’s really more of a non-slutty looking Emma Frost.  Good thing Emma was never the Phoenix–oh, wait . . .

And there’s an unwritten story–yeah, I have those.  The plot is Cytheria and Audrey accompany a Home Office diplomatic team to a world that isn’t associated with their empire, so they can conduct trade negotiations.  Things go considerably sideways, and in order to get their people butts out of some serious shit, the Psychic Twins need to power up and lay some hurt on the bad guys.  (Oh, and Cytheria can do many of the things Audrey can, though she can heal herself very fast because she had biokinesis, and her primary offensive power is cyrokinesis, so you may begin the Fire and Ice jokes at any time . . .)

In face, they enter the big battle by floating down into the fight, and while hovering above the streets like super-heroines without boob windows, Audrey yells at the troops she’s facing, “Have a little Phoenix Force, motherfuckers,” and rains fire upon their screaming butts.

You may ask, how does she know these things?  How is it she knows about comic book characters from the 1970’s?  Because that’s where she’s from.  And she–well, sorta she–was also a devote of comics, so when she gets to the future and discovers she can read minds, and fly, and throw fire . . .  yeah, ends up digging the hell out of it.

Just imagine her at San Diego Comic Con.  Fan boys and girls would be dying–maybe literally.

What was my dream telling me?  That I’m in love with female superheroes?  That I ripped something off and I should be ashamed?  That I need to tell more of Audrey’s tale, and have people draw fan art of Cytheria and her whipping ass?

Let me get my Indonesian horror novel out of the way–

Then we’ll see.

No Remembrance of Things Past

No turkey today for me:  it’s duck all the way.  Not a big eater of the gobbler, but love a duck slow cooked on the grill, so that’s where it’s at today, taking advantage of what will likely be the last 60 degree day for some time.  Then eat, rest, computer time–I have some programs I want to check out–then writing.

Back to the NaNo, which is down to its last four chapters, and may inch over sixty thousand words tonight if I’m lucky.  The wordage tells me that I may, just may, hit seventy thousand words when this is over, which is a good thing, because that puts it in an area where I can shop it in a lot of places if I go that route.

So all is good there.  Just get through the holiday–or as Rocky called it, “Thursday”–and move to the next day, which will not involve shopping.  Stick your Black Friday where the sun is non-luminescent:  I’ll be here.

This is, so I’m told, the day to give thanks.  Okay, thanks.  There you go, I’ve done given them.  I know what I have thanks for, and what I don’t–

There are a number of people on social media–and you know what social media I’m talking about–who like to put up pictures of stuff from like the 1960’s and ’70’s, and ask, “Hey, Like if you remember this!” or “Like this if you remember how great your childhood was!” or “Like this if you weren’t stoned on heroin by the time you were in college.”  Okay, maybe not so much that last one, but you know what I’m talking about.

There always seems to be a rush to some nostalgic time in a person’s life where they talk about how cool it was to run around outside barefoot, or having your parent yell out the backdoor that it was time for dinner, and no one hovered over them while they played.  (Oh, and for the meme going around that the people born in the 1950’s and ’60’s were the last to play out in the street:  come to my neighborhood.  You’ll be surprised.)

One thing you should know about the past:  it wasn’t as great as you remembered.  There were a lot of interesting things that happened back in them days, but compared to today–naw, I’ll stay in the future.

Sure, you had hand cranked kitchen appliances, and rotary phones, and maybe a TV that was the size of a Buick–but the chances are also good that you probably grew up for a while without air conditioning (as I did), and if you lived in any part of the country that had brutal summers (in other words, everywhere), there were probably more than a few times when you couldn’t get to sleep because it was 80 degrees outside, and the humidity was 85 percent, and there wasn’t a breeze in sight, so you laid there and suffered, hoping you passed out from exhaustion very, very soon.

It wasn’t always easy to make a long distance call; I can still remember my mother having to get an operator if she wanted to call her parents in Florida, because those long distant direct dial systems weren’t always working.  And if you wanted to call someone overseas, you usually went through an operator, and then your call was routed through an undersea cable–as happened with the first international call I made in 1989.  The echo was fantastic, let me tell you.  These days, I can pretty much call seventy percent of the world while I’m driving down the road if I know the number.

As for that huge TV:  three networks, plus a couple of local shows if you happened to live near a city big enough to support them.  For the longest time in the Chicago area, it was CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, WTTW, and WFLD–or, Channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 32.  You watched what they gave you, and you were happy–mostly.  And none of those stations ran twenty four hours; leave any station on long enough, and that damn Star Spangled Banner was gonna blast you awake at some point.

Oh, sure:  go ahead and bitch about there being nothing on TV, but I can get my favorite shows out of the UK six hours after they were broadcast there–or faster, if I hop on my computer and look for an upload of the episode.  If you can’t find something to watch across eight hundred channels, you’re not trying.

Speaking of computes . . . when I was growing up, they were either something you saw in science fiction, or they filled a room and pumped out enough heat to cook today’s dinner.  When I went to school to get my degree in computers, I was on of the first lab techs to rule the roost when we got out own computer–an IBM Series-1.  We had the Model 3, with 32 kilobytes of memory to run our COBOL and RPG programs.  Yeah, you heard me:  32k of memory.  Kept that a year, then moved up to an IBM System 34, with 64 kilobytes of memory, 128 megabytes of hard drive storage, and enough tools to make your programming experience a sweet one.  Yeah, baby:  we were cookin’ with gas!

Today I fire up my laptop, connect to my wireless router, and I’m working here, in the cloud–from whence this blog post cometh–and chatting with people all over the world.  I can take it with me and work just about anywhere.  I have access to as much information and as many cat pictures as I can handle, and if I want to see what the city I’m writing about looks like, I can call it up on a map and get ideas for a story–as I’m doing with my NaNo Novel this year.

Science and medicine . . . if you forget for a moment that you might not be able to pay for treatment, if you can, you’ll probably beat most most stuff that’s out to get you.  As a child I was often afflicted with parasites of the lower intestine, and it wasn’t pleasant.  My daughter has never had to worry about that.  Most of the time you can get something to help you with illness by going to the story and buying it over the counter.  If you have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or depression, you can get something to help with that.

When I was a kid, if you had something with one of your organs, you were gone.  Today, we have transplants.  I was still getting tuberculosis tests until the fourth grade, and since I always came up with a false positive, I’d have to go off and have a chest x-ray, just to be sure that my lungs weren’t bleeding out on me.  My daughter only knows of these things through school–the same with polio and smallpox.  We haven’t figured out how to cure everything these days, but in the 1960’s, a lot of things that could kill you back then are only bad memories today.

I am a huge geek when it comes to space, and the 1960’s was a good time to be alive if you followed anything in orbit.  But I also remember reading in school science books that, as far as anyone knew, it was possible there were canals on Mars, and those clouds covering Venus could hide a huge, planet-wide jungle filled with dinosaurs!  Then the Mariner space probes came along and spoiled it all . . .

Or did they?  We know that Venus is about as strange a world as they come, where the heat will kill ya if the air pressure didn’t–we won’t mention the acid rain.  And while Mars doesn’t have canals, there are cannons as big as the U.S., old volcanoes that rise twenty-seven kilometers above the plains upon which it sits,  And huge depressions that were likely sea beds at one time.  It is, for me, a world of wonder–

As are the other planets–and smaller bodies, too–in the solar system.  We’ve visited every planet and taken pictures of them and their moons, we’ve sent probes to comets and asteroids, and in a few years we’ll have our first look look at Pluto.  We’re discovering planets around other stars, sometimes with the help of amateurs who are given access to data collected by the larger scopes, or by data from orbiting satellites–or even using their own equipment.  To paraphrase a line from Goodfellas, “It’s a glorious time to look at the cosmos.”

Believe it or not, there are a lot of things that are far better for people in terms of how things are done socially these days, than they were when I was a kid.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, it was hard to vote in some places if you were black; if you were a woman, getting an abortion or contraceptives were difficult, impossible, or illegal.  Some states didn’t allow people of different ethnicities to marry.  And if you were LGBT, you damn well had better stay in that closet–or else.

It’s not quite perfect, mostly because you’ve still got idiots roaming about who are scared of all the the stuff in that last paragraph, but it’s getting there.  Just about anyone can get married regardless skin color, and people are becoming far cooling with gays being allowed the same.  It’s going to happen everywhere, and in time the anti-marriage equality people will be a bad memory, just as were the people against people of different ethnicities getting married.

LGBT people are becoming far more a part of life than they ever were “back in my day”.  Neil Patrick Harris is pretty much a household name; Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow are all over TV; George Takei . . . oh, myyyyyyyy.  Enough said.

It’s not a perfect world for LGBT, but it’s a hell of a lot better than things were before Stonewall.  How many people my age remember Rock Hudson’s life, spelled out in the same fashion as  Neil Patrick Harris’?  No, you don’t.  People didn’t know about his life, because coming out as a gay man, in the 1960’s, would have destroyed him as an actor.  We don’t remember much of his life:  we only remember his death.

I don’t look back.  For me, there were a lot of interesting things that happened, too many to recount, so many that shaped me.  But I’ll never post something like the picture of a cassette tape and say, “Remember these?  Like them if they remind you of a better time!”, because all I remember was when the damn things were eaten by your tape player, turning Benny and the Jets or Bohemian Rhapsody into some gibbering, fever dream creature straight outta Lovecraft, and your normal reaction was to curse loudly, eject the sucker, and toss it in a bin or, as I often did, out the window of your car as you cruised down the highway going sixty.

Forward, I say.  Let the past collect dust, and keep it there to use as a reference–but don’t kid yourself that it was super fantastic adventure time . . .

That’s coming on in twenty minutes.  And if you’re busy on the computer, DVR it.

We can do those things today, you know?

The Need For Make Believe

It may not look like it, but that’s Iceland and Hatsune Miku in the picture to the right.  Oh, sure, it looks like a couple of girls in funny, costumes, but trust me on who they are.  I know, because I spend the day with them, and I’m familiar with their back story.

Yesterday was a day spent at a local anime con, and while I wasn’t all that much in a hurry to go–mostly because I had a lot of editing to do, and being there was going to take away from that time–I went, mostly because my daughter wanted me to go.

While I walked around a bit, and mingled with the otaku crowds–and even spoke with a few old friends that I hadn’t seen in a few years–I mostly found a place to sit, plug in my computer, and chat a bit while I snapped pictures with my phone and uploaded said pictures to my Facebook page.  And I wasn’t being a creeper; the one time I snapped a picture of someone else, I asked if I could take her picture.  There is a certain decorum one should maintain when you are at a con, and people–particularly woman–are in costume.

Otherwise you should stay home and leave the people having fun alone.

There was a time when I had my own anime fandom.  I like to tell my daughter I’m “Old School,” which is a way of saying, “None of the stuff I watch has been around for decades.”  But I’ve worn by share of crazy tee shirts, and sat through my share of films that, back in the day–aka, twenty years ago–were subtitled by fans because that was the only way you could see that stuff that, at the time, wasn’t suppose to be seen outside of Japan.

The only time I’ve every gotten into costume goes back even farther:  1984, to be precise.  It was at a Doctor Who convention in Chicago, and I decided to dress up at the Forth Doctor, complete with a twenty-one foot scarf.  It’s unfortunate that no pictures of this event exist any longer–the ex-wife has them all, I believe–but somewhere there is a picture of me mugging to the camera while I stand next to a Dalek a couple of guys made in there high school auto shop.  Good times, let me tell you.

Since I don’t have that picture, I’ll have to give you something else, which is likely to be a bit frightening.  So here you go:  me as Hatsune Miku.  Kawaii!  You’re welcome.

I wish my earrings had been longer . . .

There is nothing wrong with getting up in costume–or, as the kids called it, cosplay–and having a good time.  Make believe is what I do for a part-time living, remember?  Maybe I’m not getting into a costume every time I write, but I am getting into there heads.  In a way, I have to be my characters so I can deal with them, deal with how they are suppose to be feeling, and help them figure out where they’re headed within the context of the story.

You have to get inside their skin, put on their clothes, and walk in their shoes.  When I read a story, I can tell when someone has gotten into the mind of their character, and when they are just “writing them out.”  And I’m not talking about Mary Sueing someone; I mean when you have sat and thought about what the character is suppose to do, how they are suppose to feel, knowing their dreams and aspirations, their fears and flaws.  Particularly those last two, because what is a real character if they have no fears, no flaws?  I’ll tell you who they are:  someone named Mary Sue.  Please, you may love the ground I walk upon.

Getting in touch with an inner child is important when you write.  Neil Gaiman said it best:  “Growing up is highly overrated.  Just be an author.”  Think about how much fun it was pretending you were someone else, and channel that feeling into something that brings a feeling of wonder to some place inside yourself that hasn’t been touched in a while.  Sometimes you gotta break out the imagination.  Some times you gotta remember what it was like trying to wear mom’s high heels.  As a famous doctor once said, “There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.

As for getting the mind limber and going to different places . . . Miku-chan (not me, the one at the very top) had reddish hair under that wig, and she said she wanted people to call her Pepper Potts–who, as we know, is the only thing that allows that drunk Tony Stark to do the things a normal person does–though I’m sure a fifth of Crown Royal helps.  Thinking ahead, I told her she should keep her hair color, and come to the con next year as Rescue, wearing her own powered armor suit.

If you look at the picture to the right, you can see just how fetching an Iron Pepper would look.  Who cares if it’s gonna be a lot of work to put it together, because if you show up at a con looking like that, you’re going to rock.

So let that cosplay flag fly.  Use it in your daily life, because we don’t have as much fun as we should, and if you aren’t having fun day-to-day, then what’s the point.  And let it come out and play when you feel the need to create something that’s going to entertain others–even if that “other” is only you.

And you know what?  I look good in a wig.  I don’t know about the blue hair, though.  Maybe something in a red, then I can say, “I wear ginger now . . . gingers are cool.”

Catchy line.  I should use that more often.

Is it Gaming, or is it Storytelling?

Yesterday I mentioned that I was thinking of a character that I’d created for a role playing game, and that I’d written a few chapters around them, sort of gave them a history.  I also made a comment sort of like, “Oh, I don’t do fan fiction.”

Except for that time when I sort of did.

Allow me to explain:

Back in the dark, dim days of the early 1990’s, I used to do a lot of gaming.  In fact, I pretty much gamed non-stop from about 1989 until 2003, or there about.  Yes, there was a little bit of gaming going on from 2005 to 2010, but not like I’d done in the prior decade.

I not only gamed, but I ran them.  I was The Gamemaster, and for a few years my games of choice were MechWarrior, and Cyberpunk.  MechWarrior was your “Giant Mechanical Things You Pilot so You Can Blow Shit to Hell!” game, and we had a blast with it because people loved blowing shit up.  Save when the shit being blown up was your mech–the gigantic robot-like thing your character piloted–then it wasn’t so much fun.  For the most part, however, it was a great game, and I put in a lot of time changing the “known history” of the game, just to put a twist on the game, and so people wouldn’t be going, “Oh, I know what happens next!”

The other game was Cyberpunk.  Now, if you want to know about that, read The Sprawl Trilogy, by William Gibson, and you’ll know a little about the game.  People were cybered up, hook into The Net, and loaded down with armor, guns, and drugs–and not always in that order.  Well, my players, the armor and guns always came first, and if you weren’t careful, you might take a shotgun blast to the face–or worse, Full Auto To THE HEAD!  People were killed just going to the ATM, and not always because they were a target.

Again, there was a lot of fun to be had, and I ran one particular game for about two and a half years of weekends.  I finally brought the game to a close, ended up killing a few player characters, and gave everyone–well, almost everyone–a good resolution.

However . . .

When I was in my writer’s group, I needed something to write about.  And lo and behold:  I came up with a set of character who existed in the world laid out within the game, and its supplements.  And, once–yeah, I wrote a story for them.  Said physical story is now lost to the ages, because it ended up on a hard drive I didn’t back up, and I never recovered, but it’s still in my head, and if I ever wanted to rewrite it, I could.  If memory serves me correctly, the story was probably thirty to thirty-five thousand words long, but it could have been longer.  To be honest, I just don’t remember.

But to show you how nutty I was, I not only wrote that story, but I figured out a whole HBO-type TV series for the characters, one that was about thirteen to fifteen episodes a season, with a full eight seasons planed.  No, really, that’s how I was rolling back in the early 1990’s.  I even had titles for some of the stories:  the first one would have been, “The Great American Nightmare,” and the last three would have been based upon the titles of famous movies.

Ah, another of those crazy ideas that never went anywhere.

So let that be a lesson to you:  no matter how crazy your ideas may be, act on them.

Because what’s worse than never having them come true?

Star Born Unicorn

I remember a time when no one walked on the moon, save in the science fiction stories I read, or movies I watched.  Hell, wanna get real, when I was born no one had even launched a satellite; I beat Sputnik I to the gate by five months and one day, and it would be another four years before a Russian went up for one orbit around the Earth, mostly because he was a very good parachutist–but that’s another story for another day.

I was big into science fiction as a kid, which meant I was big into space–’cause, we’re talking about reading stories that had been written during the Golden Age of Science Fiction–and that meant I was into everything that happened regarding space flight.  We had no internet, so everything came from papers, from radio and TV news, from Life Magazine–which used to print most of the pictures released to the public–and from the few books pertaining to the American efforts, as those wacky Soviets just didn’t want to talk about their stuff.  Hell, they even named their launch complex after a town that was hundreds of miles away, just so we’d get confused . . .

Whenever I had the chance I watched whatever was shown.  I tried to keep up; I tried to gather as much information as possible.  It’s not easy when you’re nine, ten, eleven years old to get your hands on stuff that wasn’t normally available to the public, or had limited accessibility.  That’s the 1960’s for you:  we just weren’t on the cutting edge of the future, you know.

I saw it all.  I watched every mission that went into orbit.  I watch every one that went to the moon.  And I watched, to the best of my abilities, every walk upon the moon.  Even saw a few cars drive around, saw three Lunar Modules take off, and once watched one of Galileo’s experiments get proven.  It was a great time for science, and an even better time if you were a geek.

Those times are long gone.  We haven’t walked on the Moon since December, 1972.  If you removed the trips to the Moon, we haven’t had anyone higher than a few hundred kilometers above the Earth since the last days of the Gemini Program.  While we’ve had a continuous presence in orbit for a long time, we’ve lost our will to explore.

There will come a time, probably within the next five years, that everyone who has ever walked on the moon will have died.  The youngest of the walkers is 76; the oldest 82.  After that, we might have to wait until the middle of the 21st Century before someone does it again–unless people do start walking on the Moon in the late 2020’s, as some are saying.  And the chances are good those people who do the walking again are Chinese, because it seems like no one here gives much of a shit anymore.

In the U.S., there is a definite feel that science is for people who are just too damn smart for their own good, and who are pretty anti-religious as well.  That ignorance is just as good as intelligence, and in some ways better.  When you have people yelling at Bill Nye, as they did a few years back when he spoke in Texas, that the Moon gives off light like the Sun ’cause the Bible says so, one has to wonder where they hell we are going.  When you still have people saying they have “proof” that we never landed on the Moon, you have to wonder how we are ever going to continue.  And when you hear people state, as “fact”, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and they have “proof”, it makes you want to just end it all.

One day we, as a species, will get back out into The Black.  It might not be us as a country, but someone will go.  Someone is going to take more steps–on the Moon, maybe Mars, maybe somewhere else.

Say it won’t happen?  You’re surely wrong.  ‘Cause one day I’m gonna hop on my unicorn and take my own trip . . .

And join those who can tell me what it was really like to skip along in the dirt of another world.

Dreamers and Demons

So many strange things today.  Let me tell you, I didn’t want to get out of bed, because of the things my mind was showing me last night–

See, the last few weeks I’ve complained that I haven’t seen many of my dreams, that I can’t remember them.  So, as I was dozing off last night–or, I should say, trying to doze off–I was repeating a mantra that I was going to remember, going to remember . . .

Remember I did.  Oh, boy, did I.  Can’t tell you a lot of the detail, but it seemed to consist of (a) being with some woman I’d never seen before showing porn in a classroom full of middle school kids, (b) doing very detailed measurement of certain areas of her body, (c) finding out she was a cop, and lastly, (d) hooking up with her partner and riding shotgun with him as we took some suspect down to a river, left him belted in the car, then went full-on murderball on his ass as we drove the car into the river and let him drown.

Yes, good times had by all!

That was disturbing.  I mean, yeah, I helped smoke some guy in a rather horrible way, and even though it was in my dream, it seemed that, and the sex stuff, was a rather strange way for me subconscious to remind me of–what?  Just want the hell was it telling me?

So into work . . . and I discover, to my embarrassment, it’s the birthday of H. P. Lovecraft.  One of my favorite writers, and here I was completely forgetful that just over a hundred and twenty years ago he was born.  He and his demons, his racism, and his talent.  He was the first horror writer I read, and it was through him I eventually got into Stephen King.  Lovecraft also, in his own way, pushed me into role playing, as Call of Cthulhu, Second Edition, was the first role playing game I bought.

Lovecraft was a guy with a lot of demons.  It seems like anyone creative has some ifrit on their back, and that sucker is constantly flappin’ it wings so it can keep you wrapped up in bad mojo.  This guy laid it all out for everyone to see.  He was a crazy, misogynous, racist dude who wrote crazy fiction–and spent a hell of a lot of time encouraging other writers to keep at their craft.

I posted a happy birthday for him–like he’s going to see it, right?  Well, maybe a Deep One will see it when they check their wall; these days you can never tell.

No sooner do I get that posted that I learn Tony Scott, director and producer, brother of Ridley Scott, jumped to his death yesterday.  He drove out to the Vincent Thomas Bridge, climbed the ten foot fence that’s suppose to keep people from leaping, and went over the side.  They found a note in his office, so it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing: it was something he thought about, and planned.

And executed.

I’ve seen these demons as well; they are the darkness of your life that tries so hard to consume you.  Even today, after decades of fighting them, learning to keep them at bay, they are there, waiting, sort of watching with their yellow eyes, knowing that every so often I’ll slip up, and let them in.

This last time, I did the right thing; I spoke with people, I got help.  Too many don’t.  Too many are consumed.

Gotta fight the darkness.  Never let the demons win.  Gotta stay with your dreams, even when they are strange.

Strange beats dead any day of the week.


As much fun as I poke at people who are often thought of as geeks, I’m right in there with them–for the most part.  I’m a gamer, but not one of those newfangled TV or computer games.  No, sir.  I’m a table top role player, the sort of person who sits down at a table with a bag of dice, and sets about slaying the dragon, or blowing shit up.  Usually the later, as the only dragons I ever met were in Shadowrun.  Happy elves and singing dwarfs make me want to slit their throats when everyone is asleep . . .

GenCon is going on this very moment.  That’s like the Lourdes of gaming for some people, and it’s always a big deal.  I used to attend GenCon back when it was in the MECCA Complex in Milwaukee, back when us folk close to Chicago used to sing, “Hey der, Ho der, Yah, hey hey, Stay in Milwaukee and Game!”  Back then there was a sort of funky, low rent feel to everything, almost like you were gaming in your parent’s basement, but when I was there running four games, early in the morning and late at night, I couldn’t have had a better time.

That’s all in the past.  These days it’s in Indianapolis, and it holds sway over the burb for four day in August.  It’s a good time for all, though given the state of the gaming industry, it’s not quite as–well, role playing-centric as it once was.  I suppose I could bitch and grumble like some old fart who keeps finding kids on his lawn, but no:  the future is here, and why get pissed?  I’m happy people are still gaming, I’m thrilled to see how independent companies have started selling through the Internet.

I’m not at GenCon this year.  2008 saw my last appearance, and the year before that I’d had such a horrible experience at the con that I almost didn’t return in ’08.  I ran games again, I played a little . . . I had a great time.

Then I was laid off, no work, no spare income, and GenCon had to wait.

Now, here I am, working, a little extra money, and yet . . . I kept saying, “Naw, I don’t have to go.  I don’t need to go.  Hell, I don’t even want to go.”  Yep, I’d decided I didn’t need the con this year, because–well, it’s not because of science, that’s for sure.

I blew it off, and now I’m feeling a bit of regret.  Not because going gives me an excuse to spend money, but because . . . I could use the fun.

There has been a singular lack of fun in my life for a while, and just wandering the halls would brighten my spirits.  Maybe I’d see some people I know.  Maybe I’d even see something cool that I don’t need, but want.  If I’d thought ahead, I could be styling in my Ponythulhu tee shirt, letting everyone know that Friendship is, indeed, Madness, and getting my gaming grove back.

I let work get in the way of enjoying myself, and now I’m feeling bummed as hell.

Never mind.  I’ve got my mind made up . . . next year, I’m coming, project deadlines or not.

And if they think they’re gonna stop me, they best make a saving roll . . .

Storytellers Assemble!

Today is going to be a very busy day.  Right now I’m blogging–really, if you’re reading this, then it happened, no?  Then, I’m heading out with family for a very early, 10 AM showing, of The Avengers in 3D.  I will be the first to admit, I’ve never seen a movie in this newfangled 3D the kids are all talking about, but I’ve had recommendations from other folks who, like me, aren’t that inclined to shell out big bucks just to have crap jump out at them, and they’ve told me, “Spend the money, Ray.  You’ll like it.”  So, early show, Tony snarking, Hulk smashing, Black Widow kicking butt.  Yeah, it’s a morning.

Then it’s back to the house, and cooking.  I’ll be on the grill today, first with hamburgers for lunch, then slow-cooking a couple of slabs of ribs for dinner.  Ummmm, meat . . . I’m sure, about 7 PM tonight, when I’m bloated and feeling like something huge is lodged in my lower intestine, the cows that gave their lives will be watching me from somewhere, going, “Yeah, got your ass, didn’t we?”

Oh, did I mention it’ll be 95 F, 35 C, about one o’clock this afternoon?  It always seems like when I want to cook out, it’s hotter than hell.  So it’s good that I’m at least doing the ribs for dinner, because I only have to venture outside once every hour or so.  Otherwise, screw it:  like I need to be standing over a hot grill.  I know:  “But it’s a dry heat!”  Yeah, so’s a blowtorch.

This brings up the question:  when will I have time to write?

I hear people say all the time, “I’d love to write, but real life gets in the way.”  Yes, it really does.  Unless it’s what you do for a living, you have to find a way to fit your five hundred to a thousand words a day into some kind of Chronic Hysteratic Loop that’s going to let you write quite a lot, while still finding time for everything else.

Then I started thinking:  what does Stephen King do on the weekends?  I mean, really:  I know he writes for a living, but think about it.  I’m sure there’s shopping, and, in the past, he probably got out and did a little cooking on the porch now and then, probably with a beverage nearby, and then watched a little TV . . . I mean, I’m guessing during the weekend, Stephen, and William Gibson, and a whole lot of other writer types did much the same thing I’m going to do today.

So, while I have ribs on the grill, I’ll have Scrivener open, and I’ll start a new story:  Diners at the Memory’s End.  Yes, I’m not finished with the final edit on Her Demonic Majesty, but I’ve only six chapters left to edit, and I’ve been itching to get into this new story for a week.  I can write some new copy for a while, then jump into editing a little later, yes?  I mean, isn’t that was real writers do?  Sometimes work on a couple of things at the same time?

As writers, we make our own rules.  We spend all our time building new universes, so why not set the rules about how we want to write?  I put in a lot of long days in order to write.  I’m up early to blog, then I either work, or do other things during the day, then it’s home to eat, a little chat with friends, and then, back to the stories.  I have done more than a few twenty hour days fitting in everything I want to do, because there are things I want to do.  I even remember someone online yelling at me to get to bed, because I’d remarked I was putting the final touching on an edit, but I was getting close to having been awake for twenty two hours, and man, was I sleepy . . .

Even if we were working for a living as writers, real life is still going to get in the way.  Your eight hours a day you’d spend storytelling is probably going to be interrupted by phone calls, and kids wanting something, and IMs from friends (and perhaps a few fans), maybe a discussion with an editor . . . I imagine you never have the full peace of being able to sit and just write with the door locked and the ideas flowing.  There’s always going to be one thing or another going on, and we’ll need to deal with the situation when it arises.

Like it or not, sometimes you gotta become your own superhero just to get through your day of storytelling–

‘Cause if you don’t save your own imaginary world, who will?

Four on the Floor

No, this isn’t a confession to the Wonderland Murders, though you never know, do you?

A friend of mine, Peneleope Price, the very nice author and owner of the Priceless blog, tagged me in a post.  She tagged me and said, “You have to do this Meme of Four, Ray.  You have to write out four things in each group and tell people about yourself.  You must do it!  Do it, or your immortal soul is mine!”

Well, now, not that I wouldn’t hand over my soul to Penelope–only because that’s such a sexy name–but (1) I don’t have a soul to give, and (2) if I did have one, My Muse took it, long ago, she hides it in her heart, and she will kick your ass to keep it there.  So, nah!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk about these things.  After all, my life is both interesting and boring, and some people may get a kick out of the answers I set out below.

So, without further ado . . .

Four Places I’ve Worked/Jobs I’ve Had:
a. Akzo Chemicals, North America
b. United Technology Corporation
c. Hover Trucking
d. Playboy Enterprises

Four Places I’ve Lived:
a. Cedar Lake, IN
b. Hammond, IN
c. Merrillville, IN
d. Indianapolis, IN

Four Movies I Could Watch Again & Again:
a. Forbidden Planet
b. Them!
c. Apocalypse Now (either version)
d. Inception

Four Television Shows I Watch:
a. Doctor Who
b. Project Runway
c. Sherlock
d. Real Time with Bill Maher

Four Authors I Enjoy:
a. Arthur C. Clarke
b. Stephen Baxter
c. China Miéville
d. Charlaine Harris

Four Places I Have Travelled To:
a. Hong Kong
b. Amsterdam
c. Paris
d. Bruges, Belgium

Four Websites I Visit Daily:
a. Facebook
b. The Mary Sue
c. Cracked
d. The Rude Pundit

Four of My Favorite Foods:
a. Cheesecake
b. Steak
c. Peppers stuffed with black beans and cheese
d. Italian sausage and peppers.

Four Places I’d Rather Be:
a. Working on a novel
b. In the mountains
c. Hanging with my Muse
d. Gaming (yes, I am a gamer; yes, I’ve been doing it since 1974; yes, I haven’t went insane and killed dozens of people because the devil managed to get to me through my D&D dice and tell me how I can rule the world . . .  though I did date a gamer girl once.  Does that count?)

Four People I Want to Tag:

Ah, and here’s where it gets tricky.  I’m not much for tagging, and I really want to know a blogger before I go laying the tag on them.  For now I’ll say, “I’m thinking about it,” and leave it at that.