We’re Going to Die. Everyone Reading Our Work Will Die. And That’s OK. Write On.

All roads traveled . . .

It looks like a few more of the publishing houses I’ve had the pleasure of working with have died. I just acquired the rough equivalent of a death knell from one of my former publishers, which I’ll leave unnamed because they haven’t given up the ghost yet. Obviously it is NOT EP or NBAS. They will live on FOREVER! I also found out that Pill Hill Press is no more, which is sad because I just barely got my hands on Shane McKenzie’s Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, which one of my stories appeared in quite some time ago. I hope it doesn’t go out of print. Shane did an awesome job on that one, and it was an honor to be included in an anthology with some of the greats in horror.

Found out a few months back that my second book, accepted last year, likely won’t be seeing the light of day any time soon. If it does under the publisher I’m currently (presumably) under contract with, there’s a chance it won’t get many sales due to author-publisher conflicts in the community I’m a part of. CLICK HERE for more info on that. This is the second time this damned book has been delayed due to folding presses. Black Sails expressed interest, then disappeared. It’s starting to become fairly common.

Of course it is time to re-evaluate my approach . . .

I’ve been thinking of carving my next novel into a fucking rock ledge somewhere, maybe an Adirondack slide or something. It should have some staying power then.

You won’t forget my bizarro cautionary tale of masturbation now, fuckers!

I think for many authors, the allure of the printed page surviving us is part of what drives us to write. Ever since I was 18, I’ve been obsessed with leaving more behind than two dates on a marbled stone with my name above it.

For a while I took solace in family. You know, at least our offspring will give a shit about the legacy we leave behind, right?

Then, when my grandfather died, I remember my father digging through a pile of trash to extract letters and pictures from our ancestors. They were discarded during auction because they had no monetary value. My dad fished them out, thankfully. Three or four generations go by and the legacy means little to most. Put all your eggs in the familial basket, you’re rolling the dice to lose. You become a footnote in your progeny’s legacy.

Friends are the same way. We can invest in others socially. We’re physiologically driven to do so. We can reinforce the importance of our peers. But when it comes right down to it, even if we outlive our peers by a decade or two, we’re all going to boil down to a pile of bones and a series of ideas we shared with others who also end up as bones. But don’t get me wrong. I still think there’s got to be something more, perhaps a selfless dedication to humanity as a whole.

Butterfly effect optimism. Some sort of pay it forward policy that can live on and make the world a better place.

There comes a point where we have to come to terms with the fact that we’re all going to end up as dust. The older I get, the more delusions start to become outweighed by reality, the more I’m reminded of Shelley’s “Ozymandias.” His kingdom turned to dust, and he was so arrogant and prideful that he never conceived of its demise. I’m not a big fan of classic poetry, but this guy hit the existential nail on the head. Pride, in all manifestations, is shortsighted at best.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

I find it amusing that in mythology, we conjure up these images of the muse, the timeless Calliope who grants us inspiration. Imagine: immortal beings concerned with scriptures that last only a handful of lifetimes. Any manuscripts that live longer are perverted into tools that cause pain and suffering just as often as, if not more than, enlightenment, (e.g. The Bible). Why would immortals ascribe so much importance to things that in the grand scheme of things are so insignificant?

Even more ironic is the fact that over time these legendary characters have become mere footnotes in modern fables that are little more than compilations of past lore. Calliope is relegated to cameo appearances in “high brow” popular fiction.

I like to believe that if she existed, she would have moved on to better things by now.

“Let me double check . . . yes. It says here that I give 0 fucks about your creative endeavors. I’m too busy helping Maroon 5 make timeless hits. Lolz. Just kidding. I don’t give a fuck about them either.

Despite this seemingly dismal foray into the reality of writing and publishing, I can’t stop. Like many of my friends, something compels me to move forward. But I’ve reached a new stage. I’m no longer infused with the sense of self-importance that once inspired my writing. I write expecting to fall on deaf ears, so that every time my voice is heard, it propels me forward. I feel like my stories and I are comrades in battle, and I become more of a veteran of the small press scene every time I see one of my stories go out of print in an anthology no longer published. I feel like a hero in some small way when I rescue a story or novel from imminent death. I’m hoping I can do that next year with the book I was supposed to publish with Spectacular Productions.

In a fucked up way, authors all like catchers in the rye for our stories. We stand at the edge of the field, trying to save our ideas from falling over a great precipice into non-existence. Each one is a part of us. Self-preservation is our instinct, and it is wonderful that artists have transcended the need to preserve only our biological kin, that artists produce ideas, images, experiences as offspring. There’s something romantic about the futility of trying to outlive ourselves against all odds.

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Walking Towards the 8-bit Horizon

After two years without glasses, I finally managed to see an eye doctor a few months ago. I promised myself I’d be honest on the eye exam, unlike my last trip to the DMV when I memorized the sequence of letters before reading them back to the woman at the counter.

I knew my vision was bad, but not third-line-unintelligible bad. After I failed to read virtually all the letters, the doctor slid through various lenses until we settled on a set that brought the world into focus. For the first time in two years, I started to see what I had missed.

Two months later my glasses arrived. Since then, I have been amazed at the things I have seen:

Every light emanating from a house after dark is generally a wide-screen television that is big enough for me to see what they’re watching. I feel like I’m being invited into the homes of my neighborhood every time I drive to the store. Scratch that. I feel like I’m being strong armed into their living rooms to watch shitty CGI family films, MMA championships, and football. There are no refreshments served as incentive for me to feign interest. I’m grateful that the speed limit doesn’t allow for prolonged exposure to their programs, because I would probably watch out of curiosity and subsequently be bored to fucking death.

When I was a child, one of the most compelling elements of gaming was that there were these elaborate backgrounds that the player couldn’t explore. I wanted to hike in the mountains of Ninja Gaiden II. I wanted to go to a theater in Double Dragon II’s skyline. The virtue of 8-bit gaming wasn’t what I could do. It was what I couldn’t do and that limitation’s ability to spark my imagination. I don’t see that in games as much as I used to.

The houses in my neighborhood are the same way. Before I got my glasses, I saw nothing but a blur in the neighborhood windows. I had to imagine the source of the blur. Perhaps it was a fluorescent light used to breed some obscure species of moth that my neighbor was using as his murder signature. Maybe it was a light box and someone in my neighborhood was inking his/her magnum opus: a graphic novel.

Now I see the source of these lights. There’s enough detail to ensure I’m not compelled by what I see inside. The anonymous throng of people who make up my town could easily be a ubiquitous clone of the same person placed in house after house. They’re going through the same motions, watching the same screens. And if you drive long enough, you start to notice patterns, just like you might in 8-bit games or old cartoons like Tom & Jerry where cat and mouse run past the same fridge time and time again.

For some reason all of that disappoints me. Yet I am in complete awe as I stare up at the sky, watching the same stars and the same moon traverse the same pattern every night. Glasses or no, that black canopy above me evokes the same feeling of wonder. No matter how well my sight is, no matter what magnification I view the stars through, I’m mesmerized. I notice patterns there too. Some stars radiate with the same intensity, or waver rhythmically as if the entire universe dances to the same song. But I can’t travel there, which inspires me to imagine what might be if I could. One look up at night and I become a child again. I’m staring into a 32″ screen wondering what it’d be like to walk among the green-tinted wreckage that scrolls through the background of Journey to Silius. My sense of wonder is rekindled, and sight once again inspires wonder instead of apathy.

I want to lay on the rooftop of one of those abandoned buildings and stare up at that green intestinal tubing sky.

In my short time on this planet I have watched so many people who see things clearly become disillusioned. I have fallen into that trap in the past. But from now on I’m following the things that inspire imagination and wonder when I see them clearly. When clarity reveals intricacy instead of simplicity, that inspires me to seek understanding.

When clarity reveals simplicity, perhaps it is a delusion. Something lurks beneath the surface of even the neighborhoods where every 60″ television is switched to Sunday-night football. Sometimes I think simplicity is a personal construct, a horse blinder we create for ourselves to avoid being overwhelmed by the natural intricacy that exists even in repetition and ubiquity. Then again, maybe everything can be boiled down to repetitious actions on a repetitious template. If so, many of us seem to be perfectly fine with retracing our own steps and repeating our own actions.

Speaking of which, anyone remember this video that used to air on Cartoon Network?

Three Things Less Violent and Absurd than Black Friday

It’s Black Friday, which means most of the people I know will be sitting at home watching YouTube updates featuring this year’s horde of idiocy plaguing Wal*Marts across the country. World Star Hip Hop already has a few uploaded. In one, folks create a mosh pit in the electronics section, brutally choking one another with packaging plastic so they can get . . . TracFones?

What the fuck? Good thing Apple is too cheap to cut substantial amounts of their retail prices, otherwise we would have had a chance to watch hipsters beat the partially digested tofu out of one another. THAT would have been a spectacle.

Anyway, here’s what we DO get to see:

I’m not sure what the fatality and injury count is yet, but while we’re waiting for updates, I thought I’d share a few things that-given the way Black Friday has been handled this year-are less violent and absurd than this ritualistic shopping spree that generally gets christened by someone being trampled to death:

1. Splinter to the eye in Fulci’s Zombie:

Why is it less violent than Black Friday: First, we’ve come to expect violence from zombies. It’s how they do. Conversely, there’s something incredibly disturbing about watching your aunt or grandmother crush other women underfoot to get 40% off 50 Shades of Grey. That. Shit. Will. Scar. You. For. LIFE.

2. 50 Shades of Grey

 

Why is it less absurd than Black Friday: Many people swoon over this book and act a fool when they get into the “hot spots” this book has to offer (like the infamous tampon scene) but most of them have the decency to do it in the privacy of their own homes, rather than on the tiled floor of their local shopping center.

3. The Atheist’s Worst Nightmare is a Banana

Why is it less absurd than Black Friday:  It isn’t. Nothing is more absurd than this jackass and his not-so-thinly veiled declaration of idiocy. But you haven’t experienced the dregs of society until you’ve watched this. You’re welcome.

 

 

The Physics of Talking Shit

Light travels at approximately 299 792 458 m/s. It has been hypothesized that, if we travel faster than the speed of light, we will travel back in time. While this hypothesis remains in part unproven, it’s always struck me as solid. Primarily, it strikes me as solid because as soon as you act like an ass hat and give someone reason to talk shit, it can undo everything you’ve built up in a matter of moments. That’s because shit talk (ST) moves faster than the speed of light. It’s a simple formula we all can live by, and the basic elements are below:

ST = Shit Talk

c = velocity of light

Therefore

vST > vc

The movement of shit talk is relative to the atrocity that fuels the shit talk, however. Depending on the community, the atrocity you commit, i.e. AoA could make the velocity of shit talk grow in a cubic, linear, or exponential fashion.

AoA = Act of assholism

So, using the formula for exponential decay, in which the variable x = vST and r = AoA + community variables, we get:

Case Study

Let’s take a look at Michael Jackson’s career using this formula. His act of atrocity was arguably grand. Therefore, r = AoA + community variables.

It took Mr. Jackson over two decades to acquire his billion dollar fortune. But, upon rumors of his alleged perved out interactions, his empire was reduced to rubble within two years.  So for each year after AoA and subsequent shit talk, Michael Jackson’s career and his accomplishments were undone by ten years. Thus, in our previous formula, r = 1,000%? I don’t know. I’m not a physicist. But it’d be something like that.

My penultimate conclusion here is that if vST  = c as is evidenced by the case above, with exception to the shoddy figures (let’s think about this on a general qualitative level rather than quantitative) Then by acting like an ass we can travel back in time! Unfortunately it only results in cubic, linear, or exponential decay.

Bummer

The only way around this is to do as Thrasymachus suggested in Part I of Plato’s Republic, and commit an atrocity so great that even shit talk cannot send s/he who commits the atrocity back in time. That requires having direct power over the people who would otherwise talk shit about you. Then you are safe from society’s wrath and time-travel capabilities.

. . . of course, simply not being an asshole works too.

Art, The Friendly Parasite

In a recent Scientific American article, Stephen Hawking made the following observation, which you can find online HERE: “I think computer viruses should count as life. Maybe it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. Talk about creating life in our own image.”

The premise of this observation is based upon the basic criteria for life. First, a living entity must be equipped with a way to sustain itself, a preconfigured guide relative to our genetic programming. Second, it should have the means to adhere to the parameters established in its “genetic programming.” This is all covered in the Hawking article as well.

I’ve always thought of art as living, even though it doesn’t fully adhere to the stipulations set forth by science. It doesn’t have a genetic predisposition. We sustain it through creation, distribution, and consumption. Art doesn’t really have a way to keep itself alive either. That also hinges upon us and what constitutes “good” art, or art worthy of sharing and passing on.

Like art, ideas are alive. They feed off of our energy. We make them tangible, accessible to those around us. Ideas, like art, grow and spread, or they wither and die.

Some artists choose not to have children because their art replaces that need to procreate. Their work becomes like their children. But by no means does this constitute asexual reproduction. Instead, art is sort of like immaculate conception. The mind grows fertile from interaction with the world and eventually births innovation.

What if the story of a messiah born from virgin birth is actually an allegory, detailing how our only salvation is ideas, the byproduct of mind’s interaction with the universe?

Bringing art into the world and sharing ideas, it’s a high road in many respects, but I can’t help thinking about the legitimate concern found in dystopian films like Idiocracy. What if we reach a point someday at which the people left on this earth can’t appreciate the art that’s been left behind?

What if, despite all the beauty in the world, our genetic legacy leaves us with nothing but reality programming and ‘baitin?

Sometimes it seems like the information age has been reduced to the age of meaningless input. A collection of lists and meme’d slogans placed on e-cards, overlapping pictures, attributed to various dead celebrities. Popular culture is giving birth to something never seen before, and as a washed-up, middle-aged man, of course my value judgment is going to be negative, my outlook on the future dire.

But I guess that doesn’t matter, because the entire premise of this entry was to challenge Hawking’s assertion that humans only create destructive forms of life. We’re hosts to a strange living entity: Art, our friendly parasite, the brain’s symbiotic partner that keeps the mind healthy and inspires further generation of art.

Something like that.

A Game of You: The Internet’s Effect on Identity

How many variations of you exist?

“Just be yourself.” It’s one of those loaded catch phrases that people throw around without being cognizant of how difficult it actually is to “be oneself” at all times.  Where does this notion of the genuine self stem from, and why do some people take so much stock in it? So much value is placed on the genuine self that some who meet with success are said to have sold out. But what if appealing to the masses is genuine for a person and their desire to do so is so great that selling out is an integral part of who they are? As Trey Parker and Matt Stone once said, selling out “was the whole idea” when they created South Park. And I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of other people as well.  We want to be happy. As social beings, that entails being validated by others, especially for folks in performing arts.

When it comes down to it, we’re all performing to some degree. Most people negotiate a multitude of social frames, and act different in each one. Maybe they’re Dwarf-o the great in WoW, grandma and grandpa’s good little target for inheritance money at the family reunion, the kindest guy/girl in the world to friends, and a total self-centered dick in their professional lives. We operate in a social landscape such as this by negotiating the multitude of selves so we can meet all of our needs. We need validation of our self worth in many, sometimes conflicting, arenas.

There are exceptions to the rule, two of which are pretty goddamned tragic when you get right down to it. First, the predominantly white, middle to upper middle class American lifestyle, which features multiple social frames, most of which are homogenized into a bland, viscous milk where not only everyone is expected to act the same, but each person acts the same in most social frames or communities of practice. Work, home, school, out on weekends: it’s all the same person, probably the same participants.

The second is the small-town, lower-class lifestyle in which social frames become homogenized through self-imposed segregation. I think of my hometown in particular, which people sometimes refer to as Neverland because nothing changes and few people leave. Those who do leave generally don’t come back. Those who remain generate and sustain a hierarchy that does not extend beyond community walls. You can change your position on the hierarchy, but no matter which sub community you’re a part of in that small town, you generally don’t move far, and your reputation always follows you.

Today we live in a disposable society, especially due to the internet. Don’t like one group of people you hang out with? Just toss out the old group and find another one. The internet has done for the small-town inhabitant what the city has allowed since its earliest days. If things don’t work out with the old crowd, you work the same routine with a new crowd. Thus the confidence man finds a comfortable living and the scam artist bullshits through life.

Pictured above: the trashcan of an asshole who just “can’t find a group or forum that fits his unique personality type.”

Few of us are strangers to this phenomenon. We’ve all had run ins with itinerants, whether online or in the real world—people who disappear and crop up in new groups or forums, pitching the same line of bullshit they have pitched elsewhere. It’s annoying and generally harmless, unless they’re stealing work from authors or making promises they can’t keep.

But you don’t see this as much in small towns. Well, you do. The only difference is that in a small town you can start running on empty after a while. Once your name gets around and your reputation precedes you, people seem to be more willing to listen to warning.

But online people can change their entire virtual identities. This makes it harder to regulate dangerous social aberrations.

On the other end of the spectrum—the end already established being the ability to dispose of a social frame and find a new one to reinvent yourself—there is Facebook, where social frames come together, sometimes with disastrous results. It’s particularly apparent during election season, when you realize your old pals from high school have become neo conservative Christian fundamentalists, or realize someone you respected as a colleague is prone to fits of rage and delusions of grandeur.

While seemingly paradoxical, I love what Facebook does to relational identity, but I also love the fact that we have the opportunity to experiment with our identities online. Facebook is important because we can identify problem people by noting their interactions with others. Maybe you’ve been bitching with Billy by the water cooler             about your job. You trust Billy, until you see that on Facebook he weaves an intricate web of he said/she said with his family members. Better watch what you say around Billy.

At the same time, our feedback—perhaps manifest as “unfriending,” or confrontation–gives others a chance for self-correction. People have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, or to alter their behavior in one community to get the pleasing results they find in another community. But this rarely happens. What I see is what I mentioned above. People go to a new community and act like dicks once their old community exiles them. They don’t change, they just change friends. Instead of bad personality attributes being disposable, the entire community becomes disposable to salvage the wounded pride of today’s scam artists, confidence men, and general douche bags.

I can’t get no respect . . . I guess I’ll just try being a dick on a different MMORPG. Yeah, that’ll work!

The good news is that, once we peg someone as an ass, we don’t have to deal with them anymore. Speaking of which, have you ever seen those memes and Facebook statuses that read something to the effect of “ooh, you blocked me. That’ll show me.”

something like this, but with “Facebook page” or “Myspace account” instead of “number.”

They’re indicative of the ego that people who frequently get blocked exhibit, and the general mentality that it’s all about them, and someone blocked them to establish dominance or get the last word.

Maybe they just blocked the person because (s)he’s obnoxious and they don’t want to deal with his/her shit anymore.

On a separate note, have the memes coupling Willy Wonka with shallow “nailed it” slogans completely ruined Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for anyone else?

There’s Some Crazy Shit Out There

It has only been about fourteen years since my first PC. We bought it exclusively for the purpose of using the internet. It was an old Packard Bell with a 4 Gig hard drive. Sonic CD made the damned thing run slow, and between the shitty RAM and the dial-up connection we had at the time, video was not an option.

It has only been fourteen years, and I feel like the cliché grandparent talking about the good old days, when people died from lead poisoning before the advent of aluminum cans, when you had to walk uphill both ways to get to school, and you had to shame women into buying feminine hygiene products.

I guess some things never change. Even today’s feminine hygiene ads play on the idea of the product as liberating and empowering, as if the menstrual cycle is something disempowering, something to be remedied and controlled.

I find myself talking about the good old days online. Back when people were exploring the possibilities of the internet. Back when people were still naive enough to believe their psychotic websites wouldn’t be the target of ridicule. Those were the days.

Luckily, some of the shit that used to muddy up the waters of the information superhighway is still floating around on the surface. Today I’d like to dredge up some of the shit I used to love and share it with all the folks who visit my blog (You know, the folks looking for shots of Taylor Lautner’s crotch and Frankenpenis).

1. Time Cube: Apparently this shit is so popular that there’s a Wikipedia page detailing the site’s creation and public reception to the site. And I thought I was the only one who read this ramshackle theory with more holes in it than my underwear.

At the time, I really admired this guy’s work, not because I thought it was intelligent. It was just different, and the authority with which this guy spoke made everything he said even funnier. Seriously, he calls for the death of educated adults at the hands of children who adhere to cube time and reject notions of unity for the sake of quadrant thinking . . . or some shit like that. Good show!

2. Picture Mommy Dead (the band): What the hell happened to this band? They had a decent e-presence back in the day. Were they good? No. They were listed on a cheesy goth site, and the only song I remember from them was about how Christopher Columbus was a racist piece of shit. They wore makeup like the Insane Clown Posse. They went by PMD, but now there’s some other group or artist that goes by that. It’s virtually impossible to find anything about these guys online. It’s like they just disappeared from cyber space. But there’s a little bit of shit I dug up on WayBack Machine. Follow this link to check out one of their songs, “Love in a Casket”

Love in a Casket

Could this be the lead singer of PMD today? It is possible.

3. Loompanics: man. I really enjoyed this publisher. In grad school I started a manuscript for them in my professional writing course. They went out of business right around that time. There’s a Wikipedia page listed about them: HERE

They had books on dumpster diving, hacking, chaos religion, all sorts of great shit. Apparently you can still get many of their books from Paladin and a handful of other publishers. They had some interesting titles. Not all delivered what they appeared to promise at first glance, but they were worth checking out nevertheless.