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I am happy to be collaborating with Brandon Bell on a new project, Weird Bard Press, a small press focused on "socially aware fiction." Its first project, an anthology called Torn Pages, has its guidelines posted already. This particular book, which is Brandon's concept that he will edit, has a particularly interesting and powerful motivation behind it which will be elaborated upon in an article that he'll be publishing soon. When he asked me if I would knock the accumulated dust off my publisher hat and get busy on a new project, it was not possible to say no. I never even considered saying no. I decided in five seconds to say yes, because it's a cool project and it's with my favorite collaborator.
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Hmm, collaboration: it ain't always for me. I don't always do well in groups (unless it's a group that I'm running). In my most private personal life, there's one person with whom I collaborate closely (he knows who he is) and the two of us are the entire group (with the cats, too, of course). In my day-to-day work-life, I do pretty well in the group (but I'm also kinda the boss of most of it, so I get my way a lot) but there, too, is one person who is my main collaborator, and he knows who he is. In my third strange area of life--this weird publishing and editing thing that's done almost entirely on computers--it's awesome to have a collaborator that you can actually get something cool done with, and in this area it's always Brandon Bell. My M-Brane Press handled his awesome magazine Fantastique Unfettered. He and I worked really hard and had great fun making our shared-world fiction concept The Aether Age a real book that Hadley Rille Books published a couple years ago. He also helped me make real my dream of a new book in the style of the old Ace Doubles by giving up one of his novellas to form half of it. I sometimes forget that he wasn't technically a collaborator on my antho Things We Are Not--though he did provide its awesome title story, reprinted here--because the whole time I was working on it I was constantly chatting with him by email about it and getting his insight about things. And the second story that I acquired for the M-Brane SF magazine's first issue was his. It was a stunner, and I knew that I was in touch with someone who was going to be important. So when he mails me and asks me if I want to do something, it's easy to sign up.

Another thing I like about the Weird Bard Press plan right now is that we're not doing a periodical. It's too much of grind right now at this stage of things. I like magazines, and I think Brandon does too, but we're not in that mode this year. FU was finally cancelled a few months ago after its last issue didn't quite make it all the way to press, and I have not--despite some low-level clamor for it--committed to bringing back M-Brane SF. And I'm not going to this year. I'm not saying never, but it's not the right year for it. So, we're going to do stand-alone books and focus first and fully on Torn Pages. It's exciting for me right now because I really have no more idea what this book is really going to end up being than anyone else does, but I know for sure that it's going to be super-cool and very interesting. This certainty comes from knowing that it has a great editor with a great concept.

Here is the final piece of my Justin Bieber fan fiction trilogy (which I have just now this moment declared a trilogy because I have a third item). The first was "Your Justin Bieber" (2011) in which a second-person narrator has an unexpected romance with the pop star, but it's indicated that maybe the whole thing might be more about the archetypal figure that JB might suggest than about JB himself. The second item is "The Exorcist Playset" (2012) in which JB appears JBmug2only as a literal prop in a secondary role in what is otherwise a piece of Exorcist fan fiction. In this story, he is literally an action figure, a sort of animatronic doll that stars in a kid's weird play-time fantasy and who perhaps helps this kid work his way out of what may or may not be a real demonic possession. In the writing of the following story, I have brought the subject matter closer to home and let myself be embarrassed. And for this occasion, the story seems like it should have a long and ponderous title like…

You Will Find That Heart/Smiley-Thing Deep in Here, XOXO JB
by Christopher Fletcher

Woven into the texts of Nemesis—where the unknown author famously makes an extraordinary observation about a universe where “dark planets rolls without aim, where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge or luster or name”—is a concept with which I utterly disagree. I can say now, as the world unwinds around us, that there really is an aim after all. It’s just one with which humans will have nothing to do.
            —Justin Bieber, PhD, from The Diary of Fthaggua

When he presented you, at the Xmas Eve party a couple years ago, with the next year’s Justin Bieber calendar, you were both amused and acutely embarrassed. Because it was a light-hearted gesture, honoring with well-intended humor the fact that you had unabashedly declared yourself a JB fan some time ago and were willing to admit it to anyone and stand up for its legitimacy against any opponent. And because you know that it’s likely an ongoing source of derision that you are too old, too serious, too old, too smart, too old, too professionally accomplished, too old, too cerebral and brainy, and mostly just plain too goddamned fucking old to be a belieber. It was like being handed a piece of pornography, by someone who knows exactly what kind of porn you’re into, in front of a whole bunch of other people who don’t now and won’t ever get your weird kink.
            Your favorite months are June and September, especially September where he wears Wayfarer sunglasses like yours.
            Because you are very busy with work and life—and because you are not a consumer of the kind of media where the foibles and failures of celebs are celebrated—you miss for a few days the news of JB’s arrest in Florida for drunken driving and resisting arrest. People close to you are amused that it falls to them to fill you, of all people, in on the latest of a series of ridiculous calamities surrounding this young man. You have to tell them that despite what they’d assumed was a deep and abiding fandom on your part, you just plain hadn’t heard about it yet. But when you get a few free moments away from anyone else’s gaze, you google the fuck out of the situation and find his mugshots. Though you’d not admit it to anyone else, you are relieved and delighted that he looks—even under the duress of drunken incarceration—not like a bleary-eyed loser like most people do under those conditions, but kind of pretty and sweet and crowned with mostly intact hair. He smiled for the cop cam.
         
This was about the last you’d hear of JB for a while. The incident supposedly motivated him to change his life, and part of that change was receding from pop celebrity. He cancelled his remaining performing and recording schedule. He declined media appearances and interviews. You remember hearing that he had decided to devote himself to matters of “faith and philosophy,” which you’d naturally assumed was some kind of meaningless fake-ass nonsense well in line with his previous professions of a sort of cheesy pop star Christianity.
            You remember liking a lot that full-page pic of him in his book Just Getting Started where he is on stage and he looks wet, sweat-slicked, very earnest, and yet behind him is a big lit-up sign that says PRAY. In its caption, he tells you that he is living proof that dreams come true. You cringe at this naïve cliché and you are embarrassed both for him (for saying it) and for yourself (for reading it and owning a copy of the book). He tells you to believe and to pray, and you cringe, believe and pray and pray and all  your childish dreams will come true, but he’s so fucking beautiful anyway, so you ignore this patent moronic nonsense and you decide, once again, once again, one more time, one final time, to like him anyway because he has, at least, a gorgeous voice even if he’s dumb as a bag of hammers. You occasionally still enjoy “As Long as You Love Me”  and “Boyfriend” when they recur on your playlist, but you assume that the next time you’ll see any sight of JB is when he is eventually dredged up as an F-list celeb alongside a hundred-year-old Joan Collins, a cyborg Kirstie Alley, a fat and drunk Marilyn Manson and one or another stupid Kardashian for a season of Celebrity Cook-Off hosted by an ever-more-raspy Guy Fieri.
            And of course some hot new kid quickly emerges to fill the Bieber niche, that pop-cultural hole that must always have a lithe young male occupant, and after a year or so of no new news of him at all, everyone quits caring about or even looking for the whereabouts of Justin Bieber, former pop star.

You come home from work late on Friday night—after cooking an Ancient Roman wine dinner or some such pretentious nonsense—and J says: “Can’t wait to tell you this shit: Your Boy has moved in behind us, in the house across the alley!” You honestly don’t know to which one of “Your” “Boys” he may be referring since that is the language he uses for any dude that he thinks that you might possibly think is cute. It could mean any of several thousands of dudes. It could be anyone. But seeing your exhausted confusion, he clarifies: “The Biebs. Fuckin’ JB. Here in Argos-Bellona, here in our back yard! Just moved in today.” And you again feel way behind on current events because this was supposedly widely reported on Channel 5. Stunned, you look out the back door, across the alley. Through a window in the house across the way you see a silhouette in motion that you can imagine matches JB’s.

You locate online and start reading daily the copious blog posts of the new Justin Bieber, the former pop celeb who now lives across the alley from you, whose backyard is in full view of your second-floor balcony. One day he writes,
            “The Outer God Nokkthathuas, typically represented as a blood-tinged cyclone or a shroud of blowing red dust possibly concealing some sort of unseen, unconscious creature, is perhaps a more appropriate entity for consideration nowadays—as the Dust once again threatens to enshroud the planet—than great Cthulhu itself, but the fanatics of the Cult Cthulhu will not give up their adolescent fantasy that they are finally getting noticed by the gods. They bear a mutant baby and they think it means love from the Void.”
            And, yeah, nearly all of it is just as impenetrable as that passage.
            One afternoon you sit on your balcony and gaze across the way. Behind his own house, JB sits at a table in his backyard. He wears nothing but board shorts and sunglasses, as if he might be ready for a swim, but you suspect (to your despair) that he is never going to get wet in that in-ground swimming next to his table. Because when he sits at that table he does nothing but type and click on a laptop computer. Sometimes he does this long into the evening.  Sometimes, after he has stopped for the day, you check his blog and see that he has just added another long and abstruse post about Cthulhist theology. On Twitter he might say something like, “Some people still want some kind of heart or smile from me. It’s fuckin’ comin’.”

You go to a local bookshop where you have an appointment to read aloud passages from your novel The Days of the Dust and the Diane Rehm Show and hopefully sign copies of the book, purchased by  readers from the merchant who invited you there. Hardly anyone to date has bought it yet so you hope for a small breakthrough here.
            The bookstore manager has arranged several rows of chairs in front of a table that you sit upon cross-legged and read to the guests. The passage you choose involves a dangerous, revelatory encounter between two young men aboard an airship cast in the form of a dream about alternate-history ancient Greeks who are uncovering an ancient horror on an asteroid that rolls in the dark between the Earth and the Moon.
            In the front row sits JB. He is somewhat disguised, a Cardinals baseball cap pulled low on his forehead, Wayfarer sunglasses, but it’s plainly him. You attempt to avoid glancing at him too many times, deciding to observe his obvious desire for anonymity since no one else seems to have realized who he is. He listens to you read, occasionally taps on an iPad resting on his lap. During the question/answer period, he doesn’t ask any questions. Afterward, he buys a copy of the book but he does not get in line to have you sign it.
            After he leaves, the bookstore manager says, “That dude who was sitting in the front, the one with the Cards cap, looked exactly like Justin Bieber.”
            “I guess it could have been him,” you say, and the guy just laughs. Maybe he doesn't know that JB actually lives in the city now. Or maybe he just can’t picture JB coming into his store for any reason.
         
Later that night, you take a look at the blog and read this headline:
            “Nokkthathuas and the Zeppelin: A-R Kanayda Shrouds a Deep Truth Inside a Family Drama.”
            His first paragraph: “This evening I listened to the author read from the book at a local bookstore. Even though I’d already read it, I kind of wanted to see the person who wrote it in person, speaking aloud some of its weird words, hearing his actual human voice saying these things.”
            Below this paragraph, inset within the post, is a picture of you from that night’s reading copied from a fresh post on your own website. You feel, for just a moment, quite nearly almost as embarrassed as you felt about the calendar because you understand that you are actually thrilled and flattered to appear on JB’s blog. On the new JB’s fuckin’ blog, which makes not a lick of sense. You’re a fucking fanboy so you do not care that what follows—his nine thousand word review/analysis of just one short segment of your novel—is nearly incomprehensible. And you love the fuck out of it when he cross-posts his new entry—about your story—to Twitter with the comment: “There’s a weird smiley/heart thing deep in here.” You could just die. Die.

One night you have a lengthy dream in which JB intermittently appears in various roles and guises: college friend, co-worker, boss, lover, brother, son. At one point, shortly before you awaken, he is leaning into you as if to hug you, and you permit this hug and you also permit him to kiss you in an awkward hesitant manner until you both eventually agree to this intimacy fully and kiss wetly with fully open mouths. The streaming spit between you becomes somehow thick and sticky and stringy like strands of rubber cement or semen. It thickens until your faces are bound together in a gluey mass from which you try half-heartedly to escape.

About a week later, you daydream that maybe you could really someday quit your day-job and take up the novelist life because JB’s endorsement has somehow caused Days of the Dust to rise into Amazon’s Top 100 in both Literature and Science Fiction and it looks like you might actually get a decent royalty payment for the first time ever in your life. But then a week or so later, it falls down into the top 30,000 and then down into the top 100,000 and then continues to plummet from there into the millions. But you have another one ready to publish and you can just go ahead and use JB’s endorsement of the first one as a cover blurb on the second one, and so it goes.
         
You go to the grocery store after work, very late and in a hurry for a shortcut for the pasta dish that H wants tonight. You peer at jars of various pestos and pickles and olives and other cured and marinated things at the Italian kiosk where a store chef has prepared samples of porcini mushroom/chicken risotto for the customers. You wonder if there is a container of something flavorful and piquant and oily that you can just dump into a pan with whole-wheat rotini and parm and be done with it.
            JB says, “This looks really good, but I have no idea how to make it.”
            You look up, turn around, and see him. He looks exactly like he did at the bookstore reading, sunglasses, Cards cap, t-shirt, board shorts. And he is looking at you. And his comment about not knowing how to make something was, in fact, actually spoken to you. Then you realize that you did not change clothes before you left work and that you are wearing a dirty green chef coat and black pants with pictures of fish printed on them. Of course, upon interacting with JB in person for the first time, Fucking Of Course! you’d look like this. And, Of course: he certainly thinks that you are the store chef who is handing out the risotto samples because that dude is not at his station at that moment.
            “It’s not that hard,” you say, checking quickly to make sure that you even know for sure what “it” is. The display surrounding the risotto samples has all the stuff that the store wants you to buy to make porcini/chicken risotto. But you disapprove of how it’s really just a bag of some kind of fake-ass risotto product to which you add chicken and the store-brand cheese. You disapprove of the lack of fresh mushrooms, white wine, freshly grated cheese, fresh parsley. “It’s not that hard,” you say again. “But this isn't the way to do it.”
            Though you resist the act of literally taking his hand in yours, the effect is similar as you lead him around the store and drop items into his hand basket: Arborio rice, shallots, garlic, assorted earthy shrooms, flat-leaf parsley, a box of chicken stock, a bottle of pinot grigio, a tub of grated parmesan. “It’s easy,” you adhere, “as long as you remember that you need about three times as much stock or other liquid as rice. What kind of kitchen equipment do you have?”
            “I have everything,” he says. “I’m just not good at using it.”
            “Just remember,” you say, “to not skimp on the heat when you start the initial sauté.  Heat is your friend. And don’t lose patience with the rice. It will be correct at about twenty-two minutes. Google some directions or a YouTube vid if you don't remember exactly what I have told you.”
            Fuck no, he says, you need to come to my place and show me.
            Stopped, as they say, “dead in your tracks,” you say this next thing, feeling like a totally stupid tool: “Um. I don’t know about that. But maybe. Do you live in the neighborhood?”
            You, he says, know goddamned well where I live.

When you finally return home that evening, H has already eaten dinner. You are amazed that his mood is good and that not a word is spoken about how late you are. He does not ask what kept you, does not disparage the fact that the groceries that you brought home are too late for tonight’s obsolete  plan. He does not inquire as to where you were, and so you do not have to tell him right now the truth that you followed JB to his home behind yours and that you were at once excited and creeped out when JB changed clothes in front of you (which consisted only of removing his shirt and swapping one pair of shorts for another) and that you were delighted to guide his hands, your long monkey arms wrapped around him from behind, as you taught him how to properly chop an onion and smash a garlic head, and how proud you were that you actually did not get a hard-on and knock it against the small of his back while you were doing this. Because no one would have believed you about that.
            And how, when you said goodnight just before you drove your car around the corner to your own house, you did not, emphatically not, accept his offer of a kiss goodnight, your kiss-spit remaining just a gluey rubber cement dream.

Finally some new words added into the WIP


starfishI did resolve a few days ago to move along the long-in-progress work-in-progress to a this-year completion. This afternoon I roughed out this scene that seems to solve a problem that I was having the last time I tried to get past a certain point. These are the new words of the new chapter, fresh and unedited...

The Starfish

Below lay the tomb world, the immutable cause-and-effect world of the demonic. At the median extended the layer of the human, but at any instant a man could plunge—descend as if sinking—into the hell-layer beneath.  Or: he could ascend to the ethereal world above…
--From The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

So there’s two “yous” in these notes, Chris, you my traveling companion, my step-dad, and then there’s the you of this journal. That second you I don’t always use, because it’s dumb, like “Dear Diary”-dumb, like I am a girl on a twentieth-century TV show addressing in the second-person a cheap blank book with flowers on the cover and a chintzy lock that any mean brother or sister could easily break. But sometimes I speak nonetheless to this journal directly even though it’s dumb. Chris: you are taking me on a trip today for a reason that I can’t guess at and which I haven’t bothered to ask about because I really want to go no matter what your own motive is. Diary: you will suck up my thoughts when I have them and then recede like something dimly perceived in binoculars, moving away, when I don’t have them.
                 We’re in the base of the Ankh, that giant metal thing from the 1960s that towers over the downtown of Argos-Bellona, because it is the only local structure suitable to be retrofitted as a dock for airships. You texted me a few days ago that the airship Atreides was arriving in town, stopping for a couple hours to take on new passengers for a journey northward to Transcanada and then later to Gotham. You implied by the very act of letting me know about this opportunity that I would be excited about it because I would hope that an old friend of mine would still be among the crew of that ship and that I would reunite joyously with him. But you were kind enough to not actually say a single word about this possibility—that he would be there—because you are worried that it will break my heart—and then eventually yours—when we board the ship and discover that he is not there anymore. It will break my heart, but I am ready for it, and I am ready to let it not break yours. I will wear a tough guise, a face of great confidence, a mask that proves that I am still excited about this airship journey because I am doing it with you, and certainly not because I expect to see someone else. You will believe this because it’s what will make the first few hours aboard so much easier on us both. This is always how I’ve done it, Chris, even when Dad was still with us. It needs to be even more this way now that we are alone together. Believe me. I am wiser than your years.Read more...Collapse )

photoIt is Christmas morning at almost 9:00 am as I start to write this post, J and I have been up and about since 6:00, and he keeps discouraging me from starting on today's food preparations until a little later. I guess I am not used to being around the house in the morning, and I am having trouble settling on something to do until it's time to start cooking. I realize that this is partly because all of 2013 was conducted at a full-on run, mostly because of my job, and it's weird to sit still. We did actually take two little vacations this year, to Curacao for four days in August followed by a couple days at home, and then to see our friends in OKC for three days at Halloween. But those, and two days back in January, were literally the only days this year until today that I did not appear at work for at least a short time. Working 350 or so days of the year, as I did in 2013, isn't going to be sustainable in 2014.

Work
But I am making some changes in the workplace in 2014 which are going to be good for me. I'll be reorganizing the team a bit and  filling a couple of vacant positions so that I can delegate away some of my more time-consuming chores and start to withdraw a bit from the minutiae of day-to-day operations. I need to to do this so that I can get some more big-picture stuff accomplished next year and also so that I don't just completely wear myself out. Also, I think my crew is getting tired of my stress-level (did a really bad job of keeping it bottled up inside this year!), and I would like to stave off mutiny for a while. But I kind of needed this year the way it was in order to figure some things out. My department expanded in size in 2013, and is about to expand again, and the experience of 2013 told me a lot about how to run a much larger operation.

Other Stuff
Changes at work need to help me create more time for other non-work stuff because I need to set some priorities and accomplish some things in my little writing/publishing world as well. M-Brane Press was considerably shrunken this year with only one new book title released and the promised revival of M-Brane SF magazine unrealized, and the long-promised final edition of Fantastique Unfettered altogether cancelled. A shame, because it was gorgeous, but I can't say I was too sad when its editor, Brandon, told me we were canceling. I was just too tired to finish my end of it properly anyway.

My own personal writing projects have been more or less in stasis for months. I haven't finished anything new and haven't published anywhere in a fairly long time. I am still plagued by what's now really a pair of novels involving a set of characters that have wanted their story finished to the exclusion of all else for a couple of years now. It's almost there, but it still needs some sustained attention.

This universe originally emerged in my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel (the only year so far that I actually made it to the finish line). Then, in the winter of 2011, I revived its characters in what was intended to have been a short story for one anthology or another. But it ended as a 30K-word novella, but still didn't feel done. Then I noticed that the two main characters from the '09 story, were separated from each other throughout the '11 story and only one of them was actually "on-camera" very much. So, sometime in 2012, I suddenly went to work on another big long thing focused on the other main character and what he was up to during the same time-frame as the '11 story. It could have stopped there. There's something I liked about the symmetry of the two parts. But it still wasn't done because Some More Stuff still needed to happen.

So '13's segment is intended to bring this to a conclusion at last. But now I have another problem: this three-part thing was originally imagined as a sequel to the '09 book. But I have somehow gradually changed enough stuff about these people and their past that the two stories don't make a lot of sense back-to-back now, or maybe that they make just enough sense together that the discontinuities are annoying to me. The timeline is messed up. I wonder if I don't really care about this or if I should somehow retcon the original story to make it match the newer one. It probably doesn't matter except for the fact that they might both end up in print at some point (just because I might put a revision of the '09 thing in a collection that I am considering). I have written some other junk here and there, but it's all been more or less unfinished or un-revised because this one project still wants all the attention. So that's the one that's getting it in early 2014 during this free time that I imagine I am creating for myself through reforms in my work life. We'll see how that goes.

J and I returned Monday from four days in Curacao, an island of the former Netherlands Antilles (now an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands). It's been eleven years since he and I vacationed anywhere very far away together. I want to make a few notes on what we saw and did there.

ARRIVAL, AIRPORT, TAXI: Airports stress me out generally, but as airports go, I like these small ones that are typical in the Caribbean and some places in Mexico. We'd hoped to exit the plane by stairs as we did many years ago in Mexico, but here they did have that exit tunnel thing like at most American airports. But the exit tunnel and the arrival/immigration/customs area was open to the air, not air-conditioned, kind of sultry because it was hot that day. We liked this, being immediately exposed to the climate.Read lots more...Collapse )

Feeling need to talk to my journal about random topics, no particular logic to it:

VACATION
Jeffy and I are going to Curacao next Thursday. This is the first actual vacation we have taken since 2002 when we went to Mexico. Curacao was a somewhat last-minute choice. We'd been planning a trip to France, but it got all off the rails for reasons too tedious to recount. Basically, we procrastinated our planning too long, weren't going to meet J's requirements for that particular trip, decided not to spend the money if it wasn't going to be right. But I was still determined to go somewhere completely away from home. We'd heard of this former Dutch colony just a few miles off the shore of Venezuela but we knew nothing about it. Now we are very excited about it. We have a suite in the capital Willemstad, which town evidently looks like this:

curacao

WORK IN PROGRESS
I certainly didn't need a new one of these to start up just now, but that's the way it goes. This is the opening segment of what turns into a haunted house tale of sorts later on:

Mud, made of red clay and the inches of rain that had deluged the land for the previous two days, finally stopped the driver of the old truck that was to have conveyed me the last few klicks to the Sanitorium Melancthon. It was not that his tires were yet mired, but rather that he wished to avoid that hassle, which he saw coming too soon down a road the pavement of which was probably two centuries decayed and which had been getting gradually more so as we drove. You’ll need to finish on foot, sir, he said. I’m sorry, but I’ll go no further in this mess. I paid him the full fare, pulled on my rucksack and trudged forward between ruts full of black water. The rain didn’t fall hard, but it was insistent and a bit too cold for that hot season.Read more...Collapse )

DREAMS
carsinwater
The water dreams are back. In these dreams, I am usually driving somewhere that I don't want to go and I find that as I proceed the road that I am on is too close to edges of bodies of water or that there are vast expanses of water to either side, and eventually the road starts to get washed out and I am trapped in some hopelessly cut-off swampy or oceanic area with no possibility of going forward nor any chance of retreating the way I came. I have been bothered by these dreams for most of my adult life. I went for a while without remembering one, but they recur a lot lately. I don't like it at all. I hope that when I am in Curacao by the ocean and on the floating bridge and in the floating market and driving a rental car within view of the ocean that some switch will flip back off and get rid of these dreams for a while.

EJAC STATS
Another ongoing work-in-progress caused me to do some quick Googling to determine if I could easily get an answer as  to whether, in the real world, something could somehow change with the genetic information transmitted in a human male's sperm as to make it somehow not really his genetic info anymore but rather that of an exomorphic entity.Read more only for TMI...Collapse )

something from the work-in-progress


dragonfruitA passage from the work-in-progress. A few people might recognize the situation of it from when I posted a whole bunch of the story's "Part One" on this journal some time back. But this is from Part Two. Part Three is close. And that's the last part. So hopefully it will be out of my system yet this year.


A-R passed much of the day fiddling about with his Dune site, Bene Tleilax. A large number of new (and mostly ridiculous) fiction postings had accumulated and they needed cataloguing. He sorted them slowly into their scores of categories—hurt/comfort, Chapterhouse Era, Jihad Era, many dozens of permutations of slash-fic, Duncan this-and-that, Harkonnens, et cetera—and added the appropriate tags, rejected a few that were not complete enough entries. He answered a few emails and social media posts, mostly related to the suicide panic of a few weeks previously. He explained again that the infamous “The End?” pic was not a suicide note, that he would not himself commit suicide, that he discouraged people generally from committing suicide. Enough now with suicide, said he to all.
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A couple of years ago I visited my homeland and was inspired by its weirdness and my own weird feelings about home and family and things of that nature to write a weird story about it. It was initially a stand-alone short thing about a dude who visits his family home in Wisconsin during a period of bizarre climate change and runs into some Lovecraftian supernatural business. Then, last fall, I churned that concept into my annual attempt at National Novel Writing Month and developed a sequel to that original story, a Part Two, which focused on the son of the protag from the original story and what that kid was up to while his dad was away in Wisconsin. I didn't make word count for NaNoWriMo with this, but I did figure out that the story actually wouldn't end properly without a Part Three bringing together the threads from the earlier attempts.

So now I think I have the start of Part Three, and I am considering telling the whole third part in epistolary form, letters back and forth between the characters, maybe some journal entries, kinda like Dracula. The original story (Part One) was in first-person from one of the main characters. The second part was told in a more or less conventional third-person narrative aligned with the other main character. I am not sure about going epistolary with Part Three yet, just trying it out. I don't usually like the concept. It worked for Dracula over a century ago but it's failed so many times in the internet age when a novelist thinks that stringing together a bunch of emails and social media postings works easily as a narrative. It gets dated fast, and often just ends up being dumb. I pretty much always rejected this when I was editing M-Brane SF. I recently read Dennis Cooper's gay-sex horror/porn thing from a few years back, The Sluts, which is relayed in message board posts, and it's not a very good read. I like his work generally because of its transgressiveness, but that one really needed a different format. But when I started on Part Three of my thing, I found myself writing letters. I think if I continue in this fashion, I will try to assiduously avoid a lot of references to how things like computers and smart phones operate currently. These characters aren't putting quill to parchment. It's set "now." They are using their tablets and phones, but I don't want the tech to be too up-front. So maybe the concept of letters without a lot of talk about how they are transmitted might work? Anyway, this is the way Part Three starts...

It would be better than here. Just in the like that, if you can’t remember anymore if. I want to know but I can’t see are you up there. I don’t have a lot of strength now. The sky is stripped. I am too weak to write much. But I still hear them walking in the trees; not speaking. Waiting here, away from the terrifying weaponry, out of the halls of vapor and light, beyond holland and into the hills, I have come to wound the autumnal city. So howled out for the world to give him a name.
          
            —From the last and first sentences of Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, with italic emphases added by A-R Kanayda for his “response/thought text” Bellona City of Vapor, Denny Kid of Fire


Dear Chris, (my #2 Dad, Alternate Father Who’s Sometimes More Like an Older Brother, Destroyer of Illusion, Captain My Captain, the Falconer who Cannot Hear the Falcon):
            I do not know what happened to you when you were in Wisconsin, what things you did, what things you saw. You have not talked to me about it, except in the most vague of terms, circling around the subject, outward and outward, evading my questions until I am so frustrated that I get sick of talking to you and decide to just leave you alone with whatever it is you do and think all day. You also do not want to know what happened to me while you were gone, what things I did, what things I saw. You make that fact clear by not asking me even when I pointedly tee up the question for you.
            I told you of the arrival here in our house of the Cult Cthulhu and how one of their boys sold me some kudzu fruit at Circus of Foods and how I was enlisted to impregnate one of their women. I know that you had some kind of similarly weird misadventure when you were away, maybe even an experience somehow parallel to mine. Though you have shared little about it with me, you did let slip the fact that Circus of Foods is a store up there, too, and that you bought kudzu fruit there. You admitted, though without saying it bluntly, that you fucked a Cult Cthulhu boy there, that one that I saw with you in the phone image that night.
            Is that why you do not want to tell me much about your visit to Wisconsin? Do you think that I would judge you negatively because you had a relationship with that dude? Do you think that I would frown on the fact that you had your first such liaison post-Brace? Do you worry that I’d somehow be jealous? And do you really think that Brace—if he could somehow know about it from beyond the veil of death—would object? Because if you do, then you don’t know me very well and you have already forgotten something about Brace. Listen: you did pretty much the same thing he would have done had your positions in life versus death been reversed.
            And I think that you did the same thing that I did a few weeks ago.
            Maybe you’re just not yet used to being back home in “real” time. Maybe you are still suffering an effect of the time dilation that was going on under the heat bubble, a kind of temporal jet lag. Maybe you will catch back up to me in time and be able to talk about things like we used to.
            A few days ago, start of last week, I began a part-time job at Circus of Foods. I told you about this and have posted my schedule to the calendar on your phone so that you can know easily when and when not to expect me to be home. You didn’t have much to say about it, other than that I don’t need to work right now and that I need to be thinking more about getting back to school. I told you that I know that I can easily just live indefinitely off of you and the trust that Brace left for me. But I also told you that I might feel better about myself if I can earn some of my own money. And I told you that I am not going back to school until the fall anyway. The fall at earliest. I even told you that I might not go back at all because I thought that would catch your attention, get you stressed, maybe make you angry, maybe make you yell at me and give me the Brace-lecture about how I sure as fuck will go back to school! But you didn’t do that. If you don’t give a fuck about it anymore, then maybe you won’t care that I don’t give a fuck about it anymore.
            Do you wonder if I just said that in another attempt to get a rise out of you? You won't know one way or another until you have a serious talk with me.
            My job at Circus of Foods is in the Deli-Café. That’s a department of the store where we prepare ready-to-go food, mostly for people who don’t know how to cook or who think themselves too busy or important to cook for themselves. My assignment is to make salads and hot foods for the self-serve bar that they have adjacent to the produce department. The manager of the Deli-Café is very impressed with me because he found out that I am Brace Kanayda’s son. I did not present this fact in my application, but it came out in the interview. I admitted during my first meeting with him that I know how to cook and had been taught at home. He said, “I guess it makes sense since your last name is Kanayda!” and he laughed goofily. It turns out that he is a fan of celeb chef-type people, but that he did not necessarily assume that I was actually blood-related to Brace. It was assumed to be a coincidence of name. He would not have guessed that I was actually associated directly because someone like him would presume that no one who’d ever had a brush with “celebrity” would show up for an entry-level job in his store. But I sat there like an idiot and said, “Brace Kanayda was my dad. He taught me how to cook.” If I’d not done that, it would have been a secret. I may have been subjected to gentle ribbing based on the coincidence of my name—much as I might be if my name were Flay or Batali or Morimoto—such things as a co-worker saying, “Hey, don’t mess with the master over there, Chef Kanayda knows what he’s doing” and the like. The dumb shit people might say. Like if I were working as a house painter and my name were Michelangelo. That kind of level of workplace-dumb.
            The manager’s name is Mike DeLouvier and he conforms to the stereotype of grocery store managers. There are pictures of all of them on the wall behind the customer service desk: the general manager, the meat manager, the produce manager, the night shift manager and Mike DeLouvier are all dudes ranging in age from about thirty to about sixty, and they all have mustaches and not very good hair. The other managers, also pictured at customer service (such as the customer service manager), are women in the same age range. They’re also afflicted with bad hair but blessedly lack the mustaches.
            Mike thinks I’m really cool. He says that I am better at chopping stuff than anyone else who works there, and that I work faster, and that the end result of my work looks better. This is all true. But sometimes it’s weird because he seems to pay too much attention to me, even to the detriment of my co-workers, who all need and deserve attention. I suspect that they will eventually come to resent me, and that it will be due mostly to how he spends too much time talking to me and praising my work. I have only worked there a week, and he tells me that he could help me out if I want the assistant manager position that is allegedly opening up soon in the Deli-Café. He has thrice invited me to have an after-work beer with him and some of the others. On each occasion I have been ready with a polite excuse with which to deflect this unpleasant engagement. I’d almost suspect that he was starting to chickenhawk me. Maybe he thinks I’m cute, right? It’s happened before, yo. Would certainly not be the first time, son! But then when I overhear him talking with the other older dudes who work around there, I hear him engage in dumb jokes. I somehow mentioned that you were recently in Wisconsin. One of the other dudes said, “Only thing in Wisconsin is steers and queers!” And they all laughed, including Mike. It’s really stupid.
            Some of the foods I prepare there: macaroni salad, macaroni and cheese, tortellini salad, baked beans, three-bean salad, green bean casserole, potato salad, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, Salisbury steak, country fried steak, carrot salad, broccoli salad, tuna salad, chicken salad and ham salad. A new gelatinous fruit/whipped cream salad based on the kudzu fruit, and a salsa made from it for the weekly taco bar. The meat for the taco bar, its shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream and regular non-kudzu salsa. I volunteered yesterday to make the biscuit dough for the breakfast shift because I find that I run out of things to do during my own shift because I work so fast. And you have to stay until the shift ends; you don’t get to just go home when your work is done. There are two breaks during each shift, but I never go on break with the others because they say things like steers and queers and I don’t think I will work there for very long.
            So that’s what’s up with me today.
            Love,
            Falcon

Dear Arthur,
            This is very odd that I am writing a letter to you, in response to your very odd letter to me. But I think you are correct that I have been slow to catch up in time. I know that your letter was received several days ago, but I somehow feel like I am answering a letter that I just received a moment ago. But I think I am catching up. Each day feels a little more normal.
            But didn’t we see each other each day since you sent your letter? Didn’t we sit at the table and eat dinner together just last night? We did. I know it. We ate fajitas that you made. There are leftovers of it in the refrigerator right now. I just looked to make sure. There was even some kudzu-fruit salsa that you made but which was almost exactly like one that I made in Wisconsin, and we even talked about this for a moment. Why do you have to write a letter to me when we sit together for dinner every night? It makes no sense. Really, why do I need to write a letter to you now when I just had dinner with you last night and expect to do so again tonight? Do we really not ever talk? It feels to me like we do, but maybe it’s just so slow from my perspective, delayed, and you are somehow still ahead of me in time.
            I’ll be ready to talk to you more directly very soon about the important and valid points that you raised in your letter. But we may need a change of scene for it. It might help us both. I am attaching an image that I suspect will interest you.
            [Attached image: Airship Atreides, Moored at the Obelisk, Capital]
            That ship is coming to Argos-Bellona next week. Do we want to get tickets?
            Love you,
            #2

I realized yesterday that I'll soon be confronted with what will probably feel like a strong need to see the Star Trek Into Darkness film when it releases this spring. Which involves the extremely rare action for me of actually going to the cinema. But so formative to my geekiness was original-era Trek, that I tend to still pay attention when a new product comes out, even a weak TV series like Enterprise or a total disappointment of a film like Nemesis. The most recent movie-going that Jeff and I did was in 2009 when we went twice, for the Abrams Star Trek movie (because it was the new Trek movie) and for Avatar (because we were curious about 3D, which I did not end up liking that much).

sulu
I haven't even seen a lot of home video in recent years, but I have occasionally made a point of catching up on a few things now that I have streaming capacity on the TV (love ya, Apple TV!). For example, I recently saw the latest of the Nolan Batman films. It was too dark, by which I mean that most scenes were literally not adequately lit; too noisy, by which I mean that the sound design was bloody awful; and it barely made a lick of sense. This week Jeff and I watched Scott's Prometheus, the Alien-universe prequel-type film from last year. I find that I might just not be able to suspend disbelief and open my imagination widely enough to apprehend the preposterousness of this film. Is there going to be a good story ever again in SF film, or will it henceforth never be anything but visuals and noise? Last really good SF story in movie form I saw: Boyle's Sunshine which I happened to watch on DVD the same day in 2009 I saw the Star Trek movie. Then just yesterday morning (yeah, I have been lolling about ill with a nasty cold, wasting vacation days from work to recover), I watched Steve Miner's 2008 film Day of the Dead, which is a direct-to-video abomination billed as a "remake" of Romero's 1985 film. I happen to adore Romero's film, and while I know it's not everyone's cup-a-tea, when compared side-by-side with Miner's version, it is the deepest, richest, most nuanced thing ever. Holy fuck, was that remake bad! It has frak-all to do with the Romero film other than rehashing some character names, and is just generally horrible. But now, as I write this, I wonder how much worse it really is than Prometheus: it is a very low-ambition failure with no apparent effort exerted to make it good, while it looks like they actually tried really hard with Prometheus. I sometimes think I'd rather watch an undisguised piece-of-crap movie than an overwrought and pretentious one that makes no sense.

I wonder which one of those Star Trek Into Darkness will be? Because I bet it won't be great. The teaser trailer kind of tells me that already, and probably tells me everything I really need to know about it: random baddie endangers whole Earth for a probably totally-out-of-proportion reason/Kirk and crew narrowly save the day somehow after lots of exploding. I can probably just skip it and miss nothing important by doing so. But I know I won't because I still house a small ember love for that universe even though it's wronged me again and again and again. And, if nothing else, the current Trek cast is chockablock with cute dudes. So there's that at least: it will be a visual delight. One possibly better suited for homeviewing. Alone.

star-trek-2009-sample-003

I was thinking about the prospect of this film last night while watching an episode of original Trek--the third season entry "That Which Survives." Ever since George Takei came out as gay, and I rewatch episodes of Trek with him in them, I have a quick sequence of thoughts kind of like this: He was totally gay when they were shooting this scene in 1967; that's so awesome; that so fuckin' sucks that he couldn't be out back then!; George Takei is awesome! and so on. While it's fantastic that he is out now--and very vocal in the rights cause--how awesome would it have been for a young kid (such as myself at the age that I fell in love with original series Trek) to have known that back then? To have even have been able to have considered it as a real possibility? Because I am a Trekker from way back, I have carried an ever-embiggening chip on my broad shoulder about the fact that this utopian sf concept, in its many hundreds of hours of TV and film, has never one goddamned time managed to get a gay character worked into the canon universe or even speak of the subject matter in a way that is in the slightest bit grown-up. I was stewing over that last night when I had this brilliant brainstorm: they should make new-Sulu in the new movies gay. It would settle my longstanding complaint and might be kind of a cool homage to original-Sulu actor Takei. Uh, but then this morning I found this recent article online by Dan Wohl where he makes much the same case that I was going to make here, but markedly less bitchily so. So go read his item and come back. Probably skip the reader comments, though, as a slight majority are beside the point or hung-up on some kind of weird geek hairsplitting about whether the Abrams universe is a full-on concept reboot (it is) or if it is an "alternate" or "alternative" timeline created from the "original" universe at the occasion of Kirk's birth (it is not; and I'll be happy to argue it in an extremely pedantic fashion some other time).

The handful of attempts previously in the Trek canon of even approaching the topic of non-heterosexuality, as summarized in the linked article, were few, thin, disappointing and even offensive, and left behind not one single real LGBT character of any type. The TNG episode "The Outcast"--which was celebrated at the time as Trek finally addressing gayness--offends with its built-in assumption that gay people must certainly seek to live in a heteronormative roles in order to be happy. I feel about this the same I way I did several years ago when I was asked by an acquaintance to assess whether it is Jeff or me who is the "woman" in our relationship: extremely annoyed. Also, it goes a wholly unnecessary step further and includes in the "science" of the show a cure-the-gay therapy that takes care of the whole problem and gets those pesky gender non-conformists back in line. Then there was the Enterprise episode where the Vulcan mindmeld was somehow a stigmatized stand-in for either AIDS and/or non-conformist sexuality, but it was so light-handed and timid a tale that I wonder if anyone noticed. (You know how Enterprise could have tackled this rough beast of an issue? Put a fuckin' gay dude in the main cast of characters. Done.) Then there was the lame lesbian kiss episode of DS9, the TNG tedium where Crusher gets kinda squicked out when her Trill friend switched bods from male to female, and the good old evil bisexual chicks of DS9's "Mirror" universe. Egads. And that's about it. So timid has Trek been that even in the supposedly daring "The Outcast" every single member of the genderless race was, in fact, plainly and unambiguously female. I bet they could have mixed that up a bit, cast some small-boned boys among the women, maybe even had one of them be Riker's love interest. That would have been risky and cool at the time. Hell, it would be now! That was over twenty years ago! Jeeezus! No wonder I am so annoyed! There's been zero progress in twenty years!

I want Trek to start having a gay dude in the main canonical cast. Period. I will abandon further following of the franchise if it doesn't get one pretty soon because this future world that has every kind of humanoid-with-weird-forehead creature in it, but yet somehow does not have a single gay person, speaks to me less and less every time a new show or movie appears. And while I'd be delighted with any sort of LGBT person or genderqueer character or any relief at all from the hetero-conformism that is all we have been given so far, I am actually being very specific here in my wish that this character, when he appears, be specifically a gay male. Why? Because I like to think about it grossing the shit out of the ugly, typical fanboys of my generation. While some of them were/are lovely people, so many of them were also grotesquely immature sexually, creepily sexist, rabidly homophobic--and all of that from a cohort of people who should have counted their stars had anyone--female or male--ever wanted to kiss them. Ever. It is these people in particular, the yucky fanboys of old (who often made me feel like an outcast among the most outcasted of outcasts) who I want to see flock like dorky, aging sheep to a new Star Trek film and be presented with the blunt fact of a gay dude in the main cast. But, no, that's not all I want. I want this, too: that main-cast gay dude, in one scene, full-on makes out with his lover in such an in-your-face way that you see their tongues enter each other's mouths and you just know for a fact that they are both boned hard in their Starfleet uniform pants. That would get me back into Trek for sure.

220px-Luke_Halpin_publicity_photo_2Lately I have been having a lot of media-related dreams. My last entry here was about an imaginary Rod Serling-produced TV show based on Faulkner's books. The other night I had another one about a TV show based on Frank Herbert's Dune--which of course never happened. But I decided to try to integrate this into the current work-in-progress. It fits in this way: there is a plot point that makes a lot more sense if the protag has for some reason a large and geeky social network. It needed some reason why a lot of people on the story's equivalents of Facebook and Twitter were available to observe it and react when he posts a pic of himself online with the words "THE END?" written on his chest with a marker upon the occasion of his twenty-first birthday. So, the long and exceedingly geeky paragraph below is the condensation of the dream cast into the world of the work-in-progress:

"I am A-R, a Boy Who Loves Dune"
That Arthur-Rimbaud even had such a large—and rather nerdy—social network extant to respond to his perceived suicide-distress-call was due mostly to his role as the curator of Bene Tleilax, a web-haven devoted to the fandom of the old TV series Dune. Derived loosely from the novel by Frank Herbert, the show ran from 1966 to 1986 on broadcast and then later on cable, inspiring a small but persistent following of people given to doing things like making costumes, attending conventions and writing fan fiction. Like its major TV sf-genre rival, the British show Doctor Who, the Dune series was composed of a long string of complex story arcs and it was marked by changes in its cast and characters as time passed, sometimes informed by Herbert’s occasional new entries into the novel series. Its “golden age” was generally considered to be its first three seasons, in part because of its remarkable cast ensemble: James Dean as the Duke Leto Atreides and Dean’s real-life young son Luke-Henry as his fictional son, the hero Paul Atreides; Tallulah Bankhead as the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam and Joan Collins as the Lady Jessica; the surrealist artist Salvador Dali as the Emperor Shaddam IV; John Colicos as the corrupt and sadistic Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, and Luke Halpin (also of Flipper fame) as his troubled heir Feyd-Rautha. Because of the vast scope and depth of its storyline and the constant need for new characters that might only appear once or twice, Dune became a routine stop for nearly every actor in Hollywood during the period as well as for every up-and-coming director. Anyone who’d ever touched Yoknapatawpha County or The Twilight Zone or Star Trek or Night Gallery ended up involved with Dune as well. By 1990, there was literally no one under consideration for an Emmy or an Oscar that hadn't had at least some contact with Dune. A-R’s father had been a huge fan of the show, and he’d indoctrinated his boy into it from an early age. Several years ago, looking for something to do as web-based media project for a class in high school, A-R started Bene Tleilax as a sort of personal blog combined with Dune content. Dune-enthusiasm had waned a bit over the years, in part as a result of a number of botched feature film attempts and a string of widely panned novels by Herbert’s son, but A-R still loved it all, even the weak early-1980s seasons and the bad movies and the sketchy novels, and he was delighted when his site readily gained a large following. Eventually, despite his efforts to keep the site focused on his “front-page” content, it gradually turned into a huge library of fan-written fiction, most of it “slash” in character. Accepting this natural inevitability, A-R’d spent much of his time with the site over the previous few years carefully organizing all of this slash fiction into easily searchable archives, and occasionally posting an editorial on his main page about the state of it all. This satisfied in him an urge to organize data. Occasionally he’d bust out fifty cents per word—on his dad’s dime—for original sf/fantasy fiction with a “Dune-ethos” (but without using Dune’s copyrighted property), which got him some notice as a “professional” publisher of sf/fantasy, and a lot of the stories that he’d published on Bene Tleilax later re-appeared in the various annual “Best Of” books. Despite this success, he never invested fully and personally into its cachet, instead sticking with the sensibility of his site’s original subtitle: “I’m A-R, a Boy Who Loves Dune,” and never trying to make it anything more grand than what he’d originally envisioned.

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