24 February 2015


Dumbo Octopus

Amazing crea­tures. I have great sym­pa­thy for any­thing that even seems to have enor­mous ears.

(via red­dit)

23 February 2015

27 January 2015

Men of Unborrowed Vision live on Lightspeed Magazine

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

On Baby Clothes

Matty, posing like a female comic book character

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*


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

Just how crazy is the Batman?

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

Ikea Dreams

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

An Electronic Magazine Idea: Call & Response

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

Three Months a Dad

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

Talent is Worthless if You Lack Motivation

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?