Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Words to Live By

Pee where you're supposed to pee, and don't steal things.

Monday, August 30, 2010


As requested by John Cole, my favorite political blogger.  Pretty f-cked up sh-t.  Read about it here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

If such a thing were possible.  If it were possible to convey what one feels when night falls and the stars come out and one is alone in the vastness, and life's truths (night truths) begin to march past one by one, somehow swooning or as if the person out in the open were swooning or as if a strange sickness were circulating in the blood unnoticed.  What are you doing, moon, up in the sky? asks the little shepherd in the poem.  What are you doing, tell me, silent moon?  Aren't you tired of plying the eternal byways?  The shepherd's life is like your life.  He rises at first light and moves his flock across the field.  Then, weary, he rests at evening and hopes for nothing more.  What good is the shepherd's life to him or yours to you?
-Roberto BolaƱo, 2666 p432

Thursday, August 26, 2010

True Dat

Profiting off crime and war should be left to novelists, filmmakers, and the video game industry.
-E.D. Kain

Smart Guy says Something Smart

Hey, maybe decades of downward pressure on real wages, the destruction of even the tissue of socially guaranteed retirement, and the artificial extension of the duration of the working life in response to these pressures has created a paucity of demand for new labor that has made economic independence economically unobtainable for young people. I'm just, you know, throwin' it out there. Maybe the near-total absence of even subsistence-level wages for people without an at-minimum four-year program of educational debt-indenturage is driving the upticking of the age of marriage and the formation of independent households just as much as "social acceptance of premarital sex." I'm just, you know, sayin'. Maybe the general trend of our society at all but the highest levels of class and income, which are principally inherited anyway, is toward debt-and-wage-peonage that is gradually reducing the viability of the independent household to exist at all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Skepticism is healthy, until it starts closing off possibilities.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Evil or Stupid?

You be the judge.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Myself, I lean evil with a splash of stupid for color.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writer's Journal-What I've Been Working (and Not Working) On

Spent most of the last week, along with many of my fellow Clarionites (-oids?  -istas?) working on a 150-word micro-flash piece for Jeff and Ann VanderMeers' upcoming The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, a follow-up to the award-winning Thackery T. Lambstead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases.

A description of the project, and my entry, can be found here (also look for entries from fellow Clarionites Leah Thomas, Gregory Norman Bossert, and Tom Underberg; entries by Kali Wallace, Nick Farrar, Jessica Hilt, and Dustin J. Monk are currently in the works).  We've been reading each other's entries all week, and it's been great fun, and great reading, too:  that's a talented bunch of people I got to learn with this summer, and I don't doubt that many of them will be chosen for inclusion in the Cabinet, as well as accepted for publication at the many and sundry markets to which we are all submitting these days.

Speaking of which, I also spent a bit of time this past week revising a flash piece I wrote while at Clarion, which I have tentatively entitled 'Emergence.'  It's a 700-word story about a hive-mind on a space station that's lost contact with the rest of humanity.  I'm pretty happy with it, I think.  I put it up on the google group today for my fellows to read through, so we'll see what they have to say.  I'm going to send it to Clarkesworld first, though it's kind of a longshot, since they only take 12 unsolicited submissions per year.  But they are a pro market, and they turn around their slush pile pretty quickly.  Jeff and Ann, who read and critiqued the original version, suggested I start there when I was ready to try and publish it, which seems like an even better reason than those stated above, since they are, if not as gods, then still pretty freakin' awesome.

That said, I have not done a great deal of writing or revising since I got back home.  It's getting better, but my hindbrain feels as if it's in the middle of reconstructing itself after being broken down into its constituent parts at the workshop, and the thought of trying to write anything (even this) makes my head go all fuzzy.  I'm told it's relatively normal, and it was suggested to me by at least half my instructors (two of whom were in the Clarion class of 1992) that I take a few weeks off after all was said and done to rest up and internalize the lessons I learned while I was there, but I do wish I felt more like being productive (both as a writer and in general).  It felt good to write that micro-flash piece (about the stake used to 'kill' a 'vampire' in 18th century Serbia), and to do a bit of work on 'Emergence,' but I've got at least three more stories from Clarion that I think I can make something out of that I'd like to be able to work on.  And there's getting back to work on my novel, which I may or may not put on the back-burner for a little while while I work on other projects (for one thing, at least one of the stories I wrote at Clarion strikes me as eminently novelizable, and much easier to write than the one I've been working on for the last several years).

Ah, the life of a working writer...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


What you owe your ideals:  a realistic understanding of the historical, political, and social world you inhabit, and a plan for advancing them that accords with that understanding.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Something I've Been Thinking About

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
-Mark Twain
I've been thinking a lot about this quote lately, partly because I've been so engaged in the writing of fiction and the craft of storytelling, but also because of the way it plays into some long-running thoughts and speculations I've been toying with for many years now.

It's long been a contention of mine that one of the primary ways people engage with and understand the world is through stories and narrative.  From the mythologies of the Greeks and the Norsemen to the vagaries of the modern news cycle, one of the primary drivers of any phenomenon's meaning is the narrative structures it can be fitted (or forced) into.  Human brains, by nature, function primarily by recognizing patterns, by focusing in on specific details and then using those data-points to backfill a larger picture.  Later data-points are then interpreted through the established/recognized pattern and fitted into it or, if they don't fit, they are often discarded and/or ignored, since the maintenance of the pattern/larger picture is so important to the perceiving subject's mental and psychological well-being.

This is why truth is stranger than fiction (well, most fiction, anyway), because the world as it truly is is a sprawling mess of a place that is generally too complicated and contrary to make any sort of sense out of, at least by such limited creatures as human beings.  To say things happen for a reason is, at best, an assertion of faith. 

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.  It's what we want from our narratives.  We need these patterns, these narrative structures that make some sort of underlying sense, because otherwise the world is just this crazy mess of a place in which we are lost, because nothing means anything.  Fiction is truth hammered into some sort of recognizable form, a tool we can use to understand ourselves and the world.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Free Market of Ideas

The fact that they believe they will lose the debate without that legal coercion speaks volumes about how confident they actually are in the rightness and persuasiveness of their views.
-Glenn Greenwald

This is an almost perfect encapsulation of what I think every time I come across someone who wants to legislate morality or squelch the other side of any debate or conversation.  If your ideals and ideas can't stand up to scrutiny and can't survive the crucible of reasoned argument and debate, if they can't be compared side-by-side and win on the merits, then maybe you ought to reconsider them, because by refusing to allow opposing ideals and ideas to be aired you are more or less saying outright that you don't think that yours are very strong and you don't have very much faith in them.