Amazing creatures. I have great sympathy for anything that even seems to have enormous ears.
24 February 2015
23 February 2015
I love both of these songs. Together, they form SONG VOLTRON.
27 January 2015
My latest story, “Men of Unborrowed Vision” is now live on Lightspeed Magazine. It’s an unusual story for me, in that it’s an attempt at dealing with politics and current events. I am pretty sure it’s my only bit of near-future science fiction.
I wrote it considerably before the events of Ferguson, Missouri. There was a moment during edits that I contemplated whether or not I should mention Ferguson in the story, but ultimately, it was too soon after the shooting for me to feel like I had anything cogent to say about it. It felt like perhaps I would come across as taking advantage of the pain and suffering to drive home points I wanted to make in the story. So if you read this and wonder why Ferguson and Michael Brown weren’t mentioned, that’s why.
I have noticed in early reviews that the central motivation of the titular characters was perhaps unbelievable. I will just say that this was intentional on my part (but you can still find that unsatisfactory. I can understand that).
I have two other stories I would like to tell in this sequence. Let me know if you’d like to read them.
09 December 2014
Matty is coming up on six months old, so I think it’s fair to say that I am now a parenting expert. And as I parenting expert, I have a subject I would like to address with the world:
What’s the $#%!ing deal with baby clothes?
Approximately 76% of all of Matty’s clothes feature the face of an animal. The vast majority of those feature the animal’s face on his bottom.
Who thought: “you know what baby clothes need? Faces on the butts.” This seems pretty cute and harmless at first, but that’s only until you see that smiling, cartoon lion weeping brown tears when Baby has a blow-out.
Some of the clothes have animal faces on the hoods, the butt, and the FEET. Now we’re into “serial killer in training” territory. It makes my kid look like he’s been wandering the forest, adding new victims to his collection.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Rabbit–”
*snaps rabbit’s neck*
“I AM GOING TO PUT MY KNEE INSIDE YOU”
Look, I’ve said it before; the only thing keeping babies from being cannibals is the fact that they don’t have teeth. Anybody’s whose fingers have strayed too close to the mouth of a teething baby knows this horrifying truth in their heart. So really, babies are terrifying as it is without looking like creepy Mountain Men, covered head to toe in animal carcasses.
I think we’ll just dress him in burlap sacks from now on. Burlap never goes out of style.
03 December 2014
When people talk about how insane the Batman is, they’re most often using our own world to evaluate that level of crazy. “You’d have to be nuts to dress up and go fight criminals.” The Nolan movies kind of take this approach for the most part.
I’d argue that the comic book Batman is even crazier, because you need to put his particular psychosis in context. In the Batman’s world, there are real, honest-to-God monsters, crocodile men that are nine feet tall. There is a bad guy who is LITERALLY a giant man bat. A woman who can control plants. A guy made of clay that can suffocate you.
An ordinary human who dresses up as a bat and fights crime in our universe is plain-old nuts. But in DC’s world, it’s not just crazy; it’s suicidal. In that context, it makes sense that Bruce would do everything he could to convince people he was something more than just a guy in a costume. He’d deploy all kinds of weird psychological tricks. Stage magic. His disappearing trick is essential to his survival as an ordinary man living in a world full of extraordinary threats. It makes people think he’s more than he is.
Bruce needs the average street criminal to believe in the mythos of a supernatural Batman. If you realize that the Batman is just a guy and you start to wonder, oh, hey, where does this guy sleep during the day. What’s his deal? Next thing you know, all the gangs in Gotham are burning down Wayne Manor (again) and you’re strung up from a lamp post.
There’s a moment in the new 52 Justice League where the Green Lantern realizes that Batman really is just a guy in a costume. It’s hilarious, but it shouldn’t be. Bruce should be scared shitless that someone has figured it out.
Bruce Wayne’s biggest secret is not that he’s the Batman. It’s that the Batman is just a human. He should be willing to do anything to keep that a secret.
10 October 2014
Yesterday, the wife, son, and I made our first-ever trip to Ikea. It was all a bit overwhelming. So much so, I had what was either the best Ikea dream ever or the DUMBEST Ikea dream ever. You decide:
It was staged like a fantasy action movie. You see, Ikea had announced a new Wardrobe line called PÖRTOL. They were made with a rare Nordic wood, and something was very fishy about them. Me an my team were racing against time to put a stop to an evil plot.
Ikea, you see, was a front for an ancient evil race of Swedish fey, and they intended to invade our world by selling everyone cheap PÖRTOLs and then attacking through them with huge armies, direct into our homes. Yes, the wardrobes were portals to another world.
There was a lot of running around in an Ikea warehouse being chased by bad guys that looked like the elves from Thor 2, and a lot of hammer-smashing Ikea furniture to bits. I’d like to think that Thor would approve.
06 October 2014
Electronic magazine formats are a bit stagnant in our field lately. There’s this model that’s shown some success and a lot of others have cropped up to imitate it, which is totally understandable. Magazines need to at least break even to continue, so anything you can do to match the success of others makes sense, but it leaves me wondering what ideas are being overlooked. So sometimes I’ll find myself daydreaming ways to tweak the traditional format that has evolved.
This is another one of my shower ideas. The format for the magazine would be a little different. It would be called Call & Response. That should give you a basic idea of what it’s about right there. The premise is this: you purchase one larger piece, perhaps novella length, something that’s boldly exploring some ideas popular in the genre. Maybe it challenges a common conceit. You publish this piece on your website, like most electronic magazines do. Then you open up to submissions for a couple of months. The guideline is, you must write a story that is a response to the ideas, characters, whatever of the novella. The editors select 4–5 shorter pieces, bundles them together, and sells *that* as an ebook issue. They would sort of be like little themed anthologies released on a regular basis.
The reasoning for this is, I think there used to be a larger component of dialogue in the field of science fiction. Especially when it was smaller and no so diffuse. Stories were often written in responses to other stories, but I don’t see that happening nearly as much now, and when it does, there’s a good chance you never read the original. So the notion here is to institute a magazine based on that tradition for format.
Would readers enjoy this sort of thing? I’m really not sure! A careful curator of course would be necessary. But I’d love to see someone try it, so the idea is yours if you want it.
19 September 2014
If I have one thought about fatherhood so far, it is:
Becoming a Dad is easy; being a Dad is hard.
It is startling just how easy it has been to refer to myself, completely non-sexually, in the third person as “Daddy.” There’s some deep evolutionary shit going on there. It’s almost like we’re predisposed to adapt our concept of self to include a pooping, crying ball of meat.
And cry he does. Life as a parent is a life of constant interruptions. And that’s just now, when the only way the kid can interrupt you is by crying for attention. I can only imagine how that gets worse when they can walk into the room and really pester you. Or go to their room and play loud music. Or any number of things to distract you from whatever it is you think you’re supposed to be doing.
I can see my future pain points already. I become irritated when I’m interrupted, when my train of thought is broken. I get angry. I’m afraid of outbursts at the child when he’s older. I don’t want to be the kid of Dad who yells at his kid. If I was the kind of person who prays, I would pray for patience. Instead, I cogitate on it. Try to drill it into myself with a mantra:
“No matter what you’re doing, he’s more important.”
In general, I believe it, but in the moment, I don’t always. I’ve spent a long time now in an adult world where a person could be delayed a moment. “One second,” to an adult is no big deal. To my kid, it’s meaningless, and even if he did know what I was saying right now, a second probably seems like a pretty long time to him.
And I am distracted. Usually for a good purpose. I hit the ground running when he was born; booked buckets of work. For a few weeks, all I did was feed the baby, sleep in fits, and build websites. No reading, no real television except for what I could sneak in while the baby was eating a bottle, and certainly not any video games. I still have to schedule my video game time like some kind of serious business man. Times like that, I realize what I gave up. Nothing like what Sarah sacrifices every day, mind. But in these early days, the rewarding part was slow to come.
I think the reward of it all was theoretical until he started smiling regularly. You feel… protective more than anything else, before that. But when he finally started to genuinely smile at me, I knew I was sunk. There’s no emotional distance when emotions can pass between you and your child.
I have a photo of him smiling on the lock screen on my phone. For the traditional reason of “I love my kid,” sure. But it’s also a talisman. A reminder. It says: “remember this guy? Is what you’re looking to do on your phone more important than spending some time with him?”
I put my phone away without unlocking a lot more often these days. Maybe enough. I don’t know.
So now he smiles, and he almost laughs, and he bounces himself in excitement when he sees a boob, a bottle, or the changing station. He is happiest on the changing table, right after a feeding, right after a new diaper. And now, almost inexplicably, like some kind of miracle, the ball of meat has begun to make talk-like sounds.
“Aguh,” he says. Over and over. Stringing them together like sentences. Sometimes they sound like questions. “Mmm, yes, indeed,” I say. “‘Aguh,’ indeed.”
Because really, what else can you say to that?
In those moments, I can see burning within him a fierce desire to interact with the world; to understand it. An impatience and curiosity we share most days. I am possessed with a strong curiosity as well but I am also tired. Regardless of sleep or lack of it, he is determined to observe everything, and cries hardest when he’s afraid he’s missing out on something interesting. I am instructed through conditioning to hold him upright, no longer cradled in my arm, so that he can look around and see the world. He can’t control his limbs yet, and I fear for the fate of our possessions when he learns. In my minds eye, I see him disassembling everything with hammer or screw driver, just to see what’s inside. This child is not going to have the patience for murder mysteries for a good long while.
And I resolve again to myself that I shall not be the kind of father who responds to questions of “why” with “because I said so,” but my resolve is weaker than before because now I know exhaustion and it is conceivable that I will be too tired at some point to explain, perhaps at two in the morning when all well-behaved children should be resting, I will perhaps be just a little too exhausted to explain how prisms work.
“Go to sleep,” I will possibly perhaps bark. “We’ll Google it in the morning.”
It is entirely conceivable that this kid will learn to Google before he learns to walk.
But then, I am rushing forward again, as I seem predisposed to do. Time travels fast enough; three months in but a flap of a butterfly’s wings, and before I know it, I will be dead and my grandchildren will be colonizing Mars, but before then I must tether myself to the now. Work keeps me here, but not as a weight, I suppose. It’s my laziness, and the realization that between now and the future, there is an awful lot of work to be done. Best to reside in the now just a little bit longer, please.
Slowly, inevitably, we’re dragged forward to the future and the work that waits for us there. But also, perhaps a smiling, laughing, talking child. So the future isn’t so bad, despite the work it takes to get there.
20 August 2014
I’ve spent much of my life jealous of those around me who were naturally talented at things. I’ve always wished I had something resembling talent in visual arts; I have never been able to draw, and it’s a talent I greatly admire. And while I’ve had some minor success as a writer (in that I’ve published a few stories), I don’t believe it comes from natural talent but rather perseverance and repeated trial and error.
I always assumed that success in creative endeavors would come more easily if I had this thing called talent. Only as I grow older and I have met more talented people, I realize it’s not as big a part of the equation as I once thought. The most important thing by far is motivation.
The way I see it, there are three factors in creative pursuit; you’ve got whatever skill you bring to the table, you’ve got your aspirational goals, and you’ve got your motivation. Talent might advance you some on the skill track, and goals and dreams are easy; everybody has them.
Skills can be learned. Talent’s a head start, but it’s not everything. And basically, it’s worthless if you lack the drive and motivation to achieve that goal.
I see it a lot; people who have skill and goals, but they’re always making excuses for why they aren’t advancing on them. Not enough time being the biggest one, but as Jay Lake always said, roughly paraphrasing, if you have time to watch TV, you have time to make something.
It boils down most of the time to the fact that you’re just not motivated enough on the pursuit of your goal. Which isn’t to say that real barriers to success don’t exist; of course they do. But without drive, or ambition, or some motivating need, you’re going to find a reason not to create. I don’t care how talented you are if you can’t be arsed to work.
Let’s face it; not making things is a lot easier than making things. Get your ass motivated and work. Or don’t; the world doesn’t really care one way or another. It’s gotta come from you, in the end, or what’s the point?