Jul 19, 2014

Song of the Red Marmoset

The four children woke up at the same time knowing that the meaning of life was secreted somewhere else on the planet.

In dreams the same voice had whispered to them, “Steal your parents’ mining gear and go find the book.”

None of them quite understood, but they went anyway.

Lisa Adams, Side-saddle (2004)

Just for fun, let's name the four children after Irish saints: Abigail, Fursey, Gibrian, and Ita. Gosh, those names sound nice together.

Abigail was a 6th-century abbess. One of her legends describes how she sent a swarm of bees after a cattle thief so that he would return the animals he'd stolen.

Fursey achieved fame thanks to his ecstatic trances, during which he heard angels singing and witnessed the battle for his soul.

Gibrian inspired all of his brothers and sisters to become hermits. All nine of them. No small feat.

Ita founded a religious community for women and reportedly brought a man back to life by reuniting his head with his body.

They'd make a hell of a superhero team. Let me get back to you when I think up a suitable antagonist.

Jul 18, 2014

66 Writing Prompts a Day Keep the Doctor Away

What’s the least you can expect of a writing prompt? That it will fire your imagination. That it will stretch your mind somehow — a writing prompt should get your gears turning, your pistons firing… It should be at least as inspirational as the smell of that cherry pie that you just took out of the oven.

Pie explodes when hit by a marble traveling at high speed.
Photo by Alan Sailer.

So when I see people offering writing prompts that clearly took them zero effort, I lean back in my chair and ask myself, am I working too hard? and the answer is, Yes, I am.

And you know what, it doesn’t matter. Dedication is key. Coming up with story prompts deserves no less effort than baking cornbread or mixing a vodka martini, yet I see people slapping a caption on a picture, adding a couple of Twitter hashtags, like #creativity (barf), and calling it a day.

Am I angry? Am I pissed off? Hell yeah, I’m angry and pissed off. Others may rant about the new Fantastic Four movie ruining their childhood because they decided to cast an African-American as Johnny Storm, or because the new Thor is a woman while the old Thor gets to wield a hammer called “Iron Bear.” (Yeah, that’s what järnbjörn means.) I have other concerns. To those people I say, your childhood gets ruined way too easily and frequently.

Iron Bear, eh.

But the best way to get my point across w/r/t the lousy, ineffectual word salads that pass for writing prompts on the Internet and presumably elsewhere, is to fight fire with fire. Therefore, let me show you how you can just pump out any number of story prompts when you don’t give two shits about making them good. Are you ready?

Jul 12, 2014

A Prayer to the Coastal Winds

In his blue business suit and silk tie thrashing like a trapped worm, he squatted by the basalt rocks, charred fragments of an alien world, and began to dig.

Maybe she will forgive me if I find a shell, a special one, he thought. I’ll call her in the morning.

Photo by John Magnet Bell

Wiktionary informs me that the verb "to estrange" comes from Old French estranger, "to treat as a stranger"; Dictionary.reference.com contributes "to turn away in feeling or affection; make unfriendly or hostile; alienate [someone's affections.]"

The opposite of estrangement, I guess, is finding yourself through somebody else -- finding a person who resonates with you. Resonance also comes from Old French by way of the Latin word for "echo" -- resonantia.

We spend our lives looking for echoes. This is Nature at work. If birds call to each other, if trees communicate, if every living thing on this planet builds some kind of community based on familiar sights, sounds, tastes and ideas, why should we be any different?

Go out today and be the soothing, familiar voice that somebody needs. Be the echo gifted with consciousness.

Jul 9, 2014

Mail Order Apocalypse

She had a face like an angel and legs like an ostrich. Her name was Ekaterina, she could stomp the soul out of you, and she knew what she wanted.

He had a face like an ostrich and the ethics of an evolved pop tart, which isn't saying much. Pettifer also knew what he wanted. Some of it involved identity theft, embezzlement and starting his own cult.

Together, they would commit several unorthodox crimes, and become every cop's, every lawyer's, and every lawmaker's favorite criminal couple.

My Dog Loves Gin
by Farnell

You know, I could launch into a diatribe regarding the sheer badness of ordering people off mail catalogs, but then my mind keeps straying to the subject of one-eyed pugs sitting on skateboards drinking gin through a straw, and that makes it difficult to focus on serious subjects. So have some more art instead, which I have gleaned from this abundant orchard we like to call "the Internet."

Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Miles to Go

by Amee Cherie Piek

I'm No Pig without a Wig
by Oliver Lake

Jul 3, 2014

Stop Sending Glue, We Don't Need Any More Damn Glue

It was the year of rocks cracking in the heat, the year like a famished Monday when Daltrey spent most nights awake in hunger and most days dreaming of tuna substitute.

He changed genders to female (class 35, non-fertile) and set out into the desert of Chios to maybe find a patch of juicy stank-a-bobs and live off the land by herself.

Art by Raymond Lemstra

Jul 1, 2014

The True Form of the World is Lumpy

Brett had dreamed of going to Iceland all his life, but he wasn't prepared for the shock that awaited him there.

He fancied himself a man of reserve and cautious judgment until he emerged from the underwater shuttle and saw her. Her. A figureless shape, second to none. To none!

Says the original poster:

"I saw this thing in Iceland and was told that it was a ‘sexy thing’ by people carrying it around taking pictures. It is a gigantic blob in a bikini. At least it’s a thing. Tourists were having their pictures taken with it."

Jun 27, 2014

Three Exotic Diseases You Can Only Get on Weekends


Don’t look now, but you have a parrot on your shoulder. You may be coming down with pirate fever.


Boppy Erlandsdottir claimed the elves had infected her with hopping sickness because she once went camping and had to relieve herself in the bushes, her bodily fluids staining a pebble of great value to the supernatural inhabitants of the place. Now Boppy can’t walk anymore — she hops from place to place, kind of like a bird. It’s exhausting.


Thomas McDougal, renowned preacher of the Stainsbury Church of Godly Renewal, nearly succumbed to purple dyspepsia at the age of nine. On discovering blueberries, plums and other purplish foods would fatally clog his digestive system, he received a heavenly vision in the shape of a woman with feathers for hair.

And the vision said:
God hates smokers, single women, black women, feminist men, babies of socialist parents, people who drive on the left, especially the Japanese, and people who can’t stand the sight of raccoons getting their freak on. Go now and spread the good news of his love for everybody else and preach to the impious that they may see the light and one day join the ranks of the blessed. If they start repenting now they could maybe apply for janitorial positions and the like. We’re understaffed up there.

by Mark Facey

Doesn't it look like a fun germ to hang out with? Bet it likes beer.

Jun 21, 2014

Five Things You Were Born to Do (While Drunk)

Do you know of any stories or novels where the protagonist starts out drunk? And by drunk I mean intoxicated, inebriated, smashed, wasted, shitfaced, falling-down drunk on alcohol. And by alcohol I mean a number of beverages that look and taste different but all lead down the same path when you consume them: Delirious happiness followed by low-quality sleep and a hangover and/or alcoholic coma.

Scanning the Internet for quotes — because I have sold all my books and computers and given the money to the poor, and am writing this blog post on a 22-year-old Smith-Corona hooked up to a stolen TV set — the body of evidence I have sampled shows that alcoholic ecstasy is conspicuously absent from the first lines of well-known books [1]:

On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.
--Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.
--John Scalzi, The Android’s Dream
Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.
--Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds

And that’s about as much statistical science you’re going to get out of me.

I don’t think authors have adequately pondered the limitless possibilities of kicking off with a drunk protagonist. Everything they do automatically becomes more challenging and therefore more interesting! Consider now these five examples I have made up for your instruction [2]:

  1. Bunglor the Dragon-Slayer needs a shot of liquid courage to face the crystal dragon terrorizing the village of Tlix. With a belly full of mead and poetry on his lips he departs to face the dragon, having forgotten his sword at the inn. Such is his confidence.
  2. Henrietta Marks, CPA, is under investigation for tax fraud. As a result of showing up drunk for work. The injustice of it! Vodka martinis make all her troubles fade into a mist of whogivesafuck, and thanks to a spilled beverage she meets her future husband, Dick Vogel, an entomologist, freemason and former filmmaker for the BBC. Will they live drunkly ever after? Will Henrietta go to jail? 
  3. Henry Marks (no relation to the lady above), house painter, recently divorced, drinks a few ounces of bourbon before he starts a new job. The alcohol releases Henry’s inner Mondrian — the Victorian house he's painted looks like a geometric zebra with scarlet fever and the owner’s not happy. The owner sues Henry and  the case makes the local paper. Someone posts a photo of the "Mondrian house" to imgur and it goes viral. The story makes national news and the house becomes a tourist attraction.
  4. Shaun de la Torre becomes famous as the world’s first drunk freeclimber. “Always carry a flask of something on you,” he advises. “Gets rid of the vertigo. Plus if you look down after you've had a few swigs, you feel like you’re losing your mind, so you train yourself not to look down pretty fast.”
  5. Lucy Pelletier doesn’t play blackjack until she’s had at least four shots of vodka. This unlocks Pelletier’s wild talent. She doesn’t realize this, but she’s a psychic and if she can look you straight in the eye, she can read your mind. Many a blackjack dealer, male and female, has mistaken this for flirting, which actually helps. 


I realize that alcoholism is A Very Serious Matter and one should not joke about Very Serious Matters. It is unseemly. It is immature. It is, on occasion, hilarious.
Do not drink alcohol for therapeutic ends. The beneficial effects are short-term only. Also, do not take medical advice from me; I am not a doctor, I only play one on Twitter.

[1] Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas doesn’t count because a) Thompson and his lawyer were doing drugs, not just alcohol and b) non-fiction (in the loosest possible sense of the word). Also, “well-known books” means whatever you can find mentioned on Wikiquotes or Goodreads.
[2] These may seem somewhat obvious to you, but, hark to the anecdote about Picasso’s squiggle on the napkin and the fortune he asked for it, claiming it took him two minutes and a lifetime to draw that squiggle. It took me years of practice to come up with these five vignettes.