Oct 17, 2014

The Lady Who Gave Birth to Stones

The lady, named after a beetle by capricious parents, turned the red jewel in the light and said, “A stunning replica. But this is not my child.”

She crossed her legs and turned eyes vulpine on the bounty hunter.

He quaked.

“Shall I have you killed now?” she asked.

by John Magnet Bell

As for the lady's name, I had one of these in mind. Now, to wrap things up, I suggest you go listen to some inner pilgrimage music

Oct 16, 2014

Like Two Outsized Calculators Making Love in a Broom Closet

Malcolm shook the fleas out of his beard and knocked on the Minister’s door twice, careful not to dislodge the plaque that read


held not-so-fast by a treacherous nail. Fallen twice this week already.

Buzzing, and shuffling of pointed feet. “What is?” somebody asked, invisible. “What is?”

Thousand Year Stare
by John Stortz

We invented language from the twofold need to communicate and play. Fiction without experimentation lacks color and personality. Sometimes you can take personality too far and write, as Beckett did, beautiful novels that lead nowhere -- prose poems mistaken for novels. The text is mesmerizing but Story, largely absent.

Or you can go to the other extreme, color without personality, which you get with the Dungeons & Dragons books, the Harry Potter fan fiction, where plot serves some obscure wish-fulfillment and the teller offers grotesquerie in place of transformation. 

As for my post title today, this Nine Inch Nails remix sounds like two outsized calculators making love in a broom closet. That's what Malcolm wanted to warn his superiors about. Randy calculators. Unbeknownst to him, the Minister's staff had already been turned into existentialist mosquitoes, down to the last one.

I'd like to see a mashup of Murphy and Mansquito. Someday.

Oct 11, 2014

The Train that Would Not Run On Time

Despite Tandy Erickson’s efforts to raise four docile TV watchers, her youngest displayed an annoying tendency to go out in the backyard and fashion crude bows out of twigs and purloined bits of string. He would shoot wobbly arrows at targets only he could see.

Tandy never mentioned him at her coaching sessions with Moms of the Future.

Sex on TV - Retroskopic
by Zzglam

Oct 8, 2014

On the Waterless Oceans of Unbliss

My gun’s out of charges although I haven’t fired it once. The air peels your skin and dries your tongue. So we two exiles don’t speak. We need shelter but the world is flat. A second sun rises on us and the bodies we left behind.

Ring III
by Bruce Pennington

Oct 3, 2014

In Space, No One Can Hear You Grammar Like a Pro

Can’t a poor little spaceship catch a break? There I was, sucking ore from an asteroid, when a manic voice jammed seven hundred frequencies. “HELLO,” it blared. Oh, no. It’s them.
“WE ARE LAWYER,” they said, gliding into view from behind the asteroid. “WE AM HELP YOU REACH GREAT JUSTICE.”

by Ove Kvavik

When I turned off all my audio and data comms, they switched to semaphore. Large sails crawling with bioluminescent bacteria popped out of their hull. “HELLO,” they signaled, in blinding pinks and greens. “WE IS PROTECTORS OF INDEPENDENT SHIP EVERYWHERES,” said the glowing bacteria. “YOU IS HAD CASE FOR US? LETS WE HELP YOU RESULT! MUCH LAW!”

I displayed the universally accepted code for “Back off.”
“Look,” I said, opening an outgoing data port, “We’ve talked about this before. I have no need of your services. What will it take for you to go away?”
“I don’t have a case,” I said. "I don't need you to represent me anywhere." I felt tempted to pull up and away from the asteroid, but I sure needed that tantalum.

"Three-headed exploration probe."
Many more where this one came from.

“Hey, look, a squirrel,” I said. Old trick.
OK. Now what?
Something told me I had taken a wrong turn.
“I don’t want to work with you,” I said.

Rocket ship sculpture by Rik & Shelley Allen

1. I made this prompt longer than usual, yes. You are still free to adapt the premise to a story of your own. I just had to expand on the concept of a space-crazed vessel run by bacteria. 50 words would not suffice.
2. The way I see it, the vessels are the characters. Self-aware entities. No human crew.
3. Any day is a good day to enjoy quirky robots and spaceships.

Minius Module, also by Rik Allen.

Sep 28, 2014

Sunday Flood: Music to Inspire, and Music You Can Write To

"1982," Illustration by Diego Lara Saltos

Part I. Music to Inspire.

My love affair with music began at the age of 12, when I bought Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason (these days I enjoy Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother a lot more). Then I discovered The Cure -- lucky me, their best album came out in 1989, precisely when I had a little pocket money to spare. Though I became a metal fan early on, I explored The Cure's back catalog as time and finance permitted.

I don't have any hangups about what constitutes "real" music. All music is real, in the sense that it exists. What I can't abide is music-by-the-numbers, stuff that won't sell without a soft porn video to back it up. And no, I am not against porn, I just don't like porn that masquerades as music. Won't name names.

So, you know, fanaticism and exclusion don't work for me. It's good to pay attention to, and enjoy, any kind of sincere music, from Punch to Mike Oldfield to the Master Musicians of Jajouka by way of Orlando di Lasso. And I often need a rich, varied soundtrack to take me where I want to go with my writing. If music be the color of human emotion, then I want to work with a full palette.

What I am about to share with you is the fruit of years and years of musical exploration.

Sep 26, 2014

With Great Power Come the Weirdest Groupies, or, Old Geezer Dreams Never Die

Ribbendorf, long pressed into the service of angels, found the English “magician” quite intolerable. He had introduced himself as John Dee, and the bright silver disc of his face followed Ribbendorf everywhere, asking bizarre questions and barking “words of power.” Ribbendorf would occasionally humor the madman with some holy-sounding gibberish.

Mati Klarwein

1. The "holy-sounding gibberish" is Enochian, a form of angelic (?) speech which some people believe is an actual language. You might as well read the Forty-Eight Calls and make up your own mind.
2. John Dee is the English "magician," quotes and all, bothering Ribbendorf. The latter, in the context of this prompt, actually serves angelic beings.
3. Alan Moore said, and who am I to disagree -- because I would never disagree with that beard -- that John Dee and Edward Kelley encountered beings capable of moving through the fifth spatial dimension and, for lack of a better word, called them angels. But these weren't exactly angels.

You go ahead and debate that beard. I dare not.

Sep 25, 2014

Gropius Thingperson on Why Your House Is Ugly and You Should Buy More Abstract Art

The following is taken from Gropius Thingperson’s monograph, The Stillness Between Seconds: From Bacon to Bacon.

“When Torquemada invented the CIA in the late Middle Ages, nobody could have imagined the prominent role this organization came to play in the twentieth century as a patron of the arts.


“Unlauded, perhaps, but no less relevant to the rise of eminent figures such as Jackson Pollock or Poppy Breckenridge (not to be confused with the psychiatric nurse of the same name), the CIA, more than the SPCA or the NAACP or the NEA, found itself, during the Cold War, invested in the role of tastemaker. (…)

“So freedom of speech (…) and its consequences (…) ultimately lead to a perception of the canvas that deals away with narrative space altogether in favor of (…) a reinvention, a post-Foucaultian reconfiguration of the blank rectangle as privileged (…) receptacle for the artist’s non-verbal (…) deconstructivism in the purest, most Todorovian sense. (…)

“With that in mind, let us proceed with a first look at the objects of our analysis.

Greg Gong, Untitled

“The interplay of tones disguises a subtle assault on commonly-accepted semiotic strategies, defying notions of perception as the starting point for the construction of meaning. In other words, it is as though you had to dress in bloody shark skins to go grocery shopping, and everyone around you just assumed that you were, as a consequence, this unrepentant carnivorous capitalist.

Yoshitaka Iwamoto, Untitled (Quiet Current)

“A fierce deconstruction of societal loci that we ignore at our peril. It examines the downplayed role of vacancy in communicative strategies, which Roman Jakobson was terrified of, to the point that he came up with a function of language simply to dispel that vacancy. By deploying color in a methodical fashion, filling in the blanks with a kind of regimented indiscipline, the artist comments on the ridiculousness of precision in an age where machines can make exact copies of themselves — and therefore builds a meticulous apologia of the human-as-anti-machine by aping the precision of machines while mocking it at the same time.

Kerri Blackman, It's Just the Black Road

“Originally intended as commentary on the Irish Potato Famine, this powerful piece embodies every post-modern longing for the reconstruction of etiological integrity. In everyday parlance, we deplore the transformation of the media landscape into a moral kaleidoscope where every choice is equivalent, except for the ones that do not present themselves. As a meditation on censorship, Blackman’s bold if rudimentary exertions pollute the canvas with the afterbirth of a thousand attempts to silence divergent opinion, which produces the ironic effect (we speak of DeManian irony, obviously) of a turning-against-self, an inversion of the Dasein, something which, paradoxically, the systemic monolith does not desire either, for it does away with the illusion of self that sustains it and pervades every interstice of our consensus reinforcement mechanisms.”


1. I (John Magnet Bell, not Gropius) wrote all my "analysis" completely blind. I hadn't decided which paintings to use in this blog post.
2. Neither of the Poppy Breckenridges is a real person, that I know of.
3. I'm not attempting to parody anybody in particular.
4. The 3 paintings are drawn from my growing Pinterest board of abstract art.