Free Range Meat

Free Range Meat cover

Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?

Brian certainly would. As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can. So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.

But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV? Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.

And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off? What breed of dog makes sounds like that?

These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

The art of our necessities is strange that can make vile blogs precious.

Resized_20190620_162430

 

Generic salutations, and welcome once again to another Thursday.  I’m not sure what to write today, having no specific agenda such as I had in the past two weeks.  I guess I’ll just start writing—indeed, I’ve already started—and I’ll see what comes out.

First, an update:  I’ve been working steadily on the editing of Unanimity, and I’m pleased still to find it engaging and fun.  I worried, when writing it, that it wasn’t going to be as good as the other books I’ve written, if only because it’s so long.  If brevity is the soul of wit (an unproven assertion), then its lower quality would seem to be implied.  However, I think it’s turned out better in some ways, or at the very least as good, as my other works so far.  It’s certainly my most “real-world” novel so far.  Though Mark Red does take place in what is nominally our own world, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a world in which vampires and other forms of “magic” exist behind the scenes.  Son of Man nominally takes place in the “real world,” and is science fiction rather than fantasy, but its setting, being in the future, is quite different from that of our modern lives.

Unanimity, on the other hand, is set in what is more or less clearly the modern world, and though the main action of the story revolves around something inexplicable that could certainly be called “supernatural,” this occurs as a singular outlier in what is otherwise a completely normal, real, human world.*  I won’t say that the setting is “typical” of most people’s ordinary lives; it takes place on the campus of a prestigious, research-oriented university, which is not where everyday life occurs for most of us—even those of us who have attended university.  But the people in the story are normal, ordinary people, with no experience of or belief in anything overtly supernatural.  There are no ray guns or vampires, no time travel let alone travel between parallel universes (as in The Chasm and the Collision).

It’s interesting to think, as I just now did, that almost none of my stories take place in “the real world.”  Of course, they tend to happen in universes that look and feel at first glance very much like ours, but there are fundamental departures, often forming the trigger points of the stories.  Even I for one welcome our new computer overlords, set in what should be our real world, contains elements of speculative science fiction.**  Weirdly and disturbingly enough, my most fundamentally realistic story is Solitaire, and it is also my darkest and most horrifying story (in my opinion, anyway).

I’m not sure what that says about my take on reality.

I took last Friday off editing Free Range Meat, another story where the supernatural intrudes upon what should be ordinary life, because I’ve been working on a new song.  Those of you who follow my other blog, Iterations of Zero, may know that I’ve been intermittently distracted by such things since I started to play guitar somewhat more seriously and had also learned that I could use readily available audio mixing and editing software to produce songs all by my lonesome, sometimes recording my versions of other people’s songs, but on two occasions so far producing original works.  I can’t make any claims as to the quality or the listenability of the songs, but I had (obsessive) fun doing them, and the same thing is happening again.

Like my second song, Breaking Me Down, this new song (called Catechism), is one for which I wrote the tune and most of the words way back when I was in college.  It’s an involuntary fact of my brain’s function that such things don’t tend to go away but continue to rattle and bounce around my head for decades.  I didn’t have to find any old papers with the words scribbled down (and the tunes were never previously recorded anywhere but in my mind), I simply had to transcribe them…though I changed a few of the lyrics of both songs, since their earlier versions included some rather embarrassing choices.  Of course, anyone listening to the songs as they are now may be justified in exclaiming, “These are the words he left in?  What the heck did he take out?”

Writing and producing these songs is a sort of catharsis, a way to get them out of my head and into the world.  Of course, that doesn’t actually work, since the brain is not some kind of hydraulic system where pressure can be released and drained.  Still, at least now the songs rattling about up there are—or will be—reflections of shapes in the external world, rather than merely virtual music played for an audience of one.  I can’t make any guarantees about the quality of the songs—music is if anything even more difficult to judge objectively than fiction is—but I kind of like them.  They also give me at least two or three pieces I know that I can play on the guitar better than anybody else can, since I’m the one who wrote them.  I am in all other respects a very amateur guitar player.

Once I finish Catechism, I think I’ll publish it here as well as on IoZ, and of course I’ll make “videos” of the songs and put them on my YouTube channel.  At the very least, I know that there will be no copyright claims against the videos ever in the future, since the songs are written, performed, and produced entirely by me, rather like my books.  It’s a freeing thought.

Wow, for someone who didn’t have much to say, I’ve said a lot today, haven’t I?  I think it’s probably more than enough.  I’ll just close with a sentiment of encouragement, which I hope doesn’t come across as condescending:  If you have any songs or stories (or paintings, or sculptures, or whatever) bouncing around in your head, I hope you’ll try to get them out and make them actual rather than virtual.  Somewhere out there, there’s someone who might want to experience them.  Even if you’re the only one who ever does, it can be worth it.  I think so, anyway.

TTFN


*Though I do throw in a passing reference to the setting of my short story Hole for a Heart, which is certainly a supernatural horror story.

**These may not in fact be what they seem…and if they are not, then Ifowonco would be almost a fully realistic story.

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.

facial-reconstruction-Richard-III

Hello and good morning!  It’s the last Thursday of the month, which implies that next Thursday will be the first Thursday of a new month.  Unfortunately, this no longer means that I’ll release a new episode of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains.”  More’s the pity, but they just didn’t seem to get many readers.  Perhaps people were put off by the title, or maybe people have a trained aversion to admitting that villains are not only necessary to good stories but are also, often, the most interesting and pro-active characters.  I’ve often noted that it is the villains in great stories who make things happen, who try to change the world (often in not-so-good ways, of course), whereas the heroes tend just to react to events.  In this sense, revered inventors, discoverers, and innovators have more in common, personality-wise, with the villains of our tales than with the heroes.

I don’t know what this says about human nature, but I do rue the fact that no one seems to quite get the notions that I try to express in “MHHABV.”  (I’ll rule out the possibility that I’m simply not good enough at conveying those notions.  Let’s not be ridiculous, here).  Thus, I find myself in the shoes of many a villain—the comic-book style ones, anyway—in bemoaning the fact that there seems to be no one else in all the world with the vision, the intellect, the greatness of spirit to recognize and embrace the grandeur of my design!

<<Sigh>>  It’s lonely being a supervillain.  Just ask Thanos, or Dr. Doom, or Hannibal Lecter (but I recommend asking politely).

Tangentially, it’s interesting to wonder if it’s possible to be truly happy and yet to move forward and make profound changes for the better in the world.  Buddhist monks rarely seem motivated to cure (or treat) terrible diseases,* or to invent new products or technologies, or to discover new sciences.  Not to say their activities aren’t worthwhile.  Some of them accomplish real insight into the nature of the human mind.  Still, it’s telling that the end goal of (at least some versions of) Buddhist practice is to achieve a state where you stop being reborn and can finally just frikking die and cease to exist when your time comes.  I can offer anyone with that goal a hugely step-saving strategy.

Of course, I’m caricaturing the teachings of Buddhism and Buddhist monks somewhat; I hardly think I have the final word on this subject.

Speaking of final words, just yesterday I finished the first edit of Unanimity.  Yes, that was just the first one.  Oy.  But still, it was a milestone.  I’ve already trimmed about eleven thousand words from the story, but there’s a long way to go before it’s in publishable form, with lots of little tweaks and corrections to be made.  It’s hard to write a half-a-million-word novel and keep everything perfectly consistent, especially with respect to trivia such as the receptionist’s name in a medical office, whom you forgot you’d introduced once before, and so when you introduce that person again, you use a completely different name, and perhaps even a different personality.  To take just one (purely hypothetical!) example.

Of course, to the surprise of no one who knows me at all, I haven’t come to any conclusion regarding the fate of “Iterations of Zero.”  I would be less conflicted about keeping it going if I could just find the time (and the will) to write in it, or to record “audio blogs”, as regularly as I write here.  But time and will are exquisitely finite resources, even for supervillains like me.  I have to earn a living, doing things that are not nearly so fulfilling, and which bring me into daily contact with…well, certainly with many interesting characters.  In this case, I use the word “interesting” as in the (supposed) Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”  Or, in a similar vein (har), as I’ve often said to patients, “You should try never to be interesting to your doctor.”

I would love to write, etc., full time, and to produce more material of more varied nature, but money’s tight.  Of course, if my books were to become international best-sellers and were made into blockbuster motion pictures, that would help matters tremendously, but that’s not entirely up to me.  I’m too self-effacing (and often self-loathing) to be very good at marketing myself aggressively.  This is in ironic contrast to certain people (some of them in high office) who seem uniquely skilled and talented at polishing the turds that they are and selling those shiny pieces of excrement to people who don’t appear to know better…or who don’t want to know better, which is worse.

Thinking about such things too much can arouse real sympathy for the great villains of literature.

If there’s anyone out there who wishes I had time to write more and who has a lot of money or is brilliant at marketing and has some spare time and wants a challenge, you’re certainly invited to help make my nefarious dreams a reality.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying the summer.  While you do, though, as I’ll make clear in my short story Free Range Meat, you must remember never to lock your dogs in vehicles, especially on hot, sunny days.  Conversely,** if you encounter a situation in which it seems someone else has done such a thing, you may want to think twice before intervening too aggressively.  Not all is as it seems, and the road to real Hell, as we know, can be paved with the best of intentions.

TTFN


*Physical ones, anyway.  The argument can be made that meditational practices show real promise in treating some psychological maladies.

**Or is it inversely?  Or obversely?

Come, you spirits that tend on mortal blogs, unsex me here

Come, you spirits that tend on mortal blogs, unsex me here

Jim and John

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, that day of the week of which Dent Arthur Dent never could get the hang.

I was listening to my Spotify playlist the other day, and in brief succession—though not one right after the other—I heard the songs People Are Strange by the Doors, and Girl by the Beatles.  It struck me, because of whatever peculiar frame of mind I was in, that both songs presented interesting insights, at different levels, about powerful and important aspects of human character and the nature of civilization.

Seriously.

I love it when art reflects on deeper facts of reality or can be interpreted as such.  It’s not necessary that art do this for it to be good or beautiful or worthwhile.  By no means is it necessary.  But it’s wonderful when it does.

We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that powerful insights are to be found in the lyrics of two of the most artistically sophisticated, groundbreaking, and iconoclastic bands of the sixties, but it’s pleasing to find, nevertheless.

The most straightforward of the two thoughts arises in a simple line from People Are Strange, specifically: “Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted.”  This is a powerful observation, often lamentably true, about the character of men, rooted in biology and focused by the lens of thousands of years of cultures largely dominated by men.

It is a biological fact that women are, if you will, the gatekeepers of the next generation, and since getting into the next generation is one of the most powerful drives enacted by our genes (since organisms that don’t have that drive don’t tend to get into the next generation), this sets up seriously powerful forces that have acted continuously over the course of eons.

It’s a lot more directly costly for women to get their genes into the next generation than it is for men, so they tend to be a lot choosier than men need to be, all other things being equal.*  But of course, this puts any given man in the position of having to compete for the favor of, or some other means of access to, women in order to reproduce.  For men who find themselves by nature easily attractive to women, this is not a big problem.  In those cases, it’s more often a problem for women.  But such attractiveness is rare, and most men find themselves in bitter competition with other local men (in the modern era, “local” can refer effectively to millions and even billions of people).  For a man who’s having trouble finding a woman who finds him suitable, this can engender tremendous frustration (biologically, psychologically, and socially), as this powerful ancestral drive finds itself unfulfilled.

We humans don’t deal with frustration well; we have a hard time thinking about it clearly.  We have a hard time looking at ourselves and saying, “Well, maybe I’m not that obviously promising a person with whom to pair one’s genes in the trip to the next generation.  Is there anything I can do to make myself at least seem more promising?”

Instead, many men start to think that women are wicked.  Perhaps “think” is too lofty a verb for the process; “feel” might be more accurate, since logical thought is rarely involved, and is more often used in post hoc sophistry than for careful evaluation.  We associate our frustration with women, especially with highly attractive women, and we lose sight of the chain of causality.  We just blame the women for the feeling, instead of recognizing that it comes from us and our own circumstances.  We fail to recognize that women are no more to blame for wanting to be choosy about their partners than men are about wanting to posture and show off in order to maximize our own perceived attractiveness.

From this collision of drives and barriers is born all manner of misogyny, including whole cultures that require women to be covered in public so as not to “inflame men’s lust”**  It’s part of the what drives men to create societies that subordinate women, that effectively (or actually) enslave them.  Women are described as wicked and are blamed for the frustrated lusts and behaviors of men, partly because it’s easier to “justify” mistreating someone when you demonize them.

This frustration turned to malice and revenge is almost certainly contributory to the push in certain modern communities to ban abortion even when pregnancy is the result of rape.  After all—looking at things in horribly immoral but nonetheless depressingly real terms—this leaves open one means by which to circumvent the biological gatekeepers.  Or, rather, it is a means to break down the gate, and an option that such men, consciously or subconsciously, might want to leave open for themselves.

Maybe I’m being uncharitable.

So many evils are born of or influenced by the fact that women seem wicked*** when you’re unwanted that it’s almost too depressing to accept or at least to look at closely.  But if we want to correct and prevent evil outcomes, we need to think about where they come from and how they became what they are.  Only by doing this we can counter such evils effectively and efficiently and produce a more moral and ethical civilization.  Unless and until we change the nature of our biology itself, at a very deep level, we’re going to be saddled with this tendency, this subjective feeling, so well and concisely encapsulated in the Doors’s seemingly throw-away line.

Oodles more could be said about this, of course, but I’m not trying to write a full article, let alone a book on the subject.  I welcome your input on the matter, though, whether in the comments or on Facebook or on Twitter.

And, of course, I clearly don’t have reasonable time or space this week to deal with the second song, Girl, so I’ll leave that for next time.  I’ll just provide a teaser by saying that I think this song—probably unintentionally and/or unconsciously—had much to say about addiction, and the parallels between it and the dramatic and poetic notions of romantic love.

In closing, a quick report:  I continue to edit Unanimity at a good pace, and I’m enjoying the process; this enjoyment will probably not last, nor should it, for I need to be as brutal and ruthless with my work as I can.

I also, just for fun, yesterday began writing (by hand, to try mitigate my natural verbosity) Dark Fairy and the Desperado, a story I’d originally envisioned as a manga, based on two drawings I did at separate times and for separate reasons, of characters who somehow just worked in my head when I threw them together.  You can see several renderings of them among my posted images on Facebook, in my personal account and I think on my author page.  There’s even a fanciful picture, drawn as a favor, of the Dark Fairy tormenting then-President George W. Bush.

How much more would the Dark Fairy have to say and do now, with our current president?  One shudders to imagine, and that shuddering is not necessarily entirely born of dread, but perhaps, rather, of antici…

…pation.

TTFN


*All other things almost never are equal, but we’ll leave that aside for now.

**Since most men, as a simple fact of reality and math, can’t stand out as plainly being above average relative to other men, and so are more likely to be frustrated in their “lust” than to have it bear fruit…so to speak.

***Let there be no misunderstanding:  this seeming is purely in the eyes of the beholder.

Rise, resty Muse, my blog’s sweet face survey

Hello and good day!  It’s Thursday again—and it’s a new month, the lusty month of May as the song says—and thus it’s time for a new edition of my blog.

I’m feeling physically rather better than I have for the previous two weeks, which is certainly a good thing in and of itself.  Hopefully that’s a trend that will continue for a while…though of course, it cannot continue forever, for anyone.  Which is fine, too, as far as it goes*.  It had better be fine, because it’s not as though we can do much about it.  There’s no option given us for the amendment of the laws of physics.

I’ve been troubled by a feeling of disquiet and gloom that often comes with not writing any new fiction but instead only editing.  Of course, that sense is probably all tangled up with the fact that I’ve been a bit unwell physically, so I shouldn’t draw too many conclusions.  Still, it’s happened to me before, and the pattern I’ve noticed leads me to say to myself that I’d better always be writing something new if I want to hold the black dog at bay.  If this conclusion is erroneous, at least it’s one that leads me to keep writing, and that’s also a good thing in and of itself.

With that in mind, yesterday I broke down and wrote a new page of fiction.  I decided not to work on the novella I’d recently begun, which is a sort of psycho-supernatural horror story.  I think I’ve done enough horror for a while.  I like it, of course—both to read and to write—but after all, Unanimity is a veeeeeeeeery long supernatural/pseudoscience-fictionish horror story, and Free Range Meat is a short horror story, as have been most of my recent works (though one could argue that Penal Colony is not horror).  I think I need a break, and maybe my readers, such as they are, could use one as well.  With that in mind, I decided to begin a story I’ve been planning for some time:  Neko/Neneko, a modern fable.

What decided me to get writing on it was that I thought of a fun way to open the story (fun for me, anyway).  I’d always known that I was going to begin with the line “Neko was a cat,” because it’s a tautological introduction, if you speak any Japanese, and I found that amusing.  Then, two days ago, it occurred to me that I could turn that opening into a little homage to the beginning of A Christmas Carol, surely one of the most beloved “modern” supernatural stories.  It’s not exactly a fable—there are no non-human animal characters as far as I can recall—but it’s definitely positive and inspiring, and I’ve particularly enjoyed listening to the recording of Patrick Stewart’s live rendition of the tale.

Thus inspired—and driven by internal necessity—I wrote the first page of Neko/Neneko, and I feel good about it.  I don’t want to slow down my editing too much; there’s a great deal of it to do on Unanimity in particular.  I think I’ll stick to no more than one page a day of the new stuff, which is fine because it’s not going to be a terribly long story (you’re welcome).

In the meantime, though I’ve suffered a diminishment of the rate of editing over the last few weeks because of physical ailments, I’m getting back in the saddle, and should be making decent headway.  Of course, Free Range Meat is going to be finished long before Unanimity will be, even though I’m only working on it one day a week.  It’s just so much shorter.  After that, perhaps Unanimity will speed up ever so slightly, or perhaps I’ll start that project about which I’ve been speaking for some time, i.e. the releasing of the short stories from Welcome to Paradox City as individual Kindle editions, as well as creating a second edition of the paperback.  Then, of course, I really want to make a second edition of Mark Red, because there are some minor issues in the layout and whatnot that irk me as I reread it.

Hopefully, I’ll live long enough to get all of this done**, but I guess none of us has any guarantees.  It would be nice if I were able to make enough income from writing to be able to do all this full time.  Then I could make greater and more rapid progress.  Perhaps I should consider joining Patreon or something along those lines (though that might just be depressing).

Better yet, everyone out there could spread the word about my books and stories and encourage your friends and families to buy them.  I know they’re not for everybody—I tend to be a bit dark, though I also tend to try to be a bit funny, too, if only darkly and dorkily—but I think they’re pretty good, and that a lot of people would enjoy them.  And that would certainly be enough of an excuse to have been born as anyone could ever ask for.

TTFN


*Please forgive the sentence fragment.  Actually, is that a sentence fragment?  Does “Which” count as a subject in this case?

**I’m being melodramatic.  I’m in no imminent physical danger of dying in the short term as far as I know.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me; For now hath time made me his numbering blog

Chronic Publications Logo

Hello, all.  It’s Thursday again, despite our best efforts, and time for another blog post—the first of a new month.

I have now, officially, released my song, “Schrodinger’s Head” in mixed and recorded form—or whatever the proper terminology is—onto Iterations of Zero, as well as onto YouTube, and that’s good.  It’s been an interesting experience, but it took up a lot of my time for the last few weeks, compulsively, so I’ve done no new audio blogs or written postings on IoZ, nor have I done much in the way of editing on either Unanimity or on Free-range Meat.  Now that the music has…well, if not died, then has at least been released into the wild, I can get back to more usual things, and anyone who has been waiting for my stories eventually to come out can breathe a sigh of relief.  I doubt there is such a person, but just in case…

Work on my novella—for which I still don’t have a final title—has continued all along.  I wasn’t going to let anything take me away from that, since my new writing has to be always my primary commitment.  The story’s going well so far, all things considered.  I like the characters, which is a plus, but this usually means—given the way my stories tend to go—that they’re in for some hard times.  Oh, well.

I’m still struggling with the conundrum of whether to keep doing audio blogs for Iterations of Zero, or to try to switch back to doing written blogs (with the difficulties that presents) or just saying “to Hell with it” and not waste any more time on either one unless and until the mood strikes me.  This latter notion, though, tends to be a pipe dream.  For a writer, in my experience at least, waiting until the mood strikes is comparable to waiting for an asteroid impact.  It will happen eventually…but you’ll probably be waiting longer than any human lifetime.

Well, that’s about all I have to say about that this week.  I could harp on about some random, walk-in topic and try to be funny, but even I find that sort of thing unbearably stupid a lot of the time, so I can’t imagine how it must seem to all of you.  I wish you, and all manner of other sentient beings, well.

TTFN

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding; Sweet bloggers love the spring.

It's spring!

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Thursday.  I hope you’re all doing and feeling well, and also that you’re doing and feeling good.  Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s now Spring!  For those most powerfully affected by the relative duration of the daylight (such as sufferers from seasonal affective disorder), there is ample reason for celebration of these next six months.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been moving steadily ahead with my audio blog on “Iterations of Zero”.  I just finished recording and editing another entry, which I’ll post later today, and which I’ll probably turn into a “video” and put on my YouTube channel by tomorrow at the latest.

I’m enjoying this process, which shouldn’t really surprise me…but it kinda does.  Obviously, I hope that people will listen to these posts and will occasionally find them thought-provoking, and that they’ll perhaps even respond.  But I think even if no one were ever to respond or react, it would still be good for me to get these posts out.  I don’t know if it’s just an odd form of talk therapy, or if it’s something else entirely.  But I do think that speaking one’s thoughts aloud tends to crystallize and clarify them, which is unquestionably beneficial.  Writing does this as well, and in an even more precise and orderly fashion, but that very precision and order makes it at times a greater burden and a more daunting task.  Thus, for the time being at least, I shall continue my experiment in audio blogs.

Of course, I will also continue to write my fiction, which is my oldest and greatest love (not counting love for specific people).

Speaking of fiction—as I was—my novella is coming along well.  Earlier this week I did have to take a day off from everything after I ate what I think was a bad egg roll and found my system rebelling.  It made its displeasure known by sabotaging certain essential services, including fuel intake and waste management.  After much negotiation, though, I think we’re finally approaching a settlement, and my writing has already resumed after only one day of full disruption.

On the editing front, I’m speeding up a bit.  That’s good, because editing Unanimity is no small task.  I haven’t yet done any tidying up of Free-Range Meat (yes, that’s the title of my latest short story), because I wanted to make some good headway on Unanimity first.  Still, before long I will rewrite/edit my short story, and it will soon be published.

The novella will take longer, of course, since I need to finish writing it and then edit it before it can be published.  I may also change its title before I’m done.  The working title, Safety Valve, is fine as far as it goes, but the aspect of the story to which it refers is becoming less prominent as the world of the story takes on greater depth and scope.  There’s much more to it than I expected when I started the story.  It may well tie in with other persons, places, and events in the universe(s) of my fiction, including a planned future work called Changeling in a Shadow World…which in turn will have at least a distant connection to The Chasm and the Collision, and farther back will link to my first completed novel, Ends of the Maelstrom…now lost, alas, to the whips and scorns of time.

Perhaps I’ll find it in my head again someday.

Come to think of it, this novella even bears a distant connection to my horror novel Vagabond, which is also (partially) lost, but which would be easier to reclaim.  We’ll have to see what happens with that.

Bottom line:  there’s so much to do and so little time.  It would all be quicker and easier if I were able truly to write full-time, but I need to make a living and cannot yet do so with my writing alone.

(Hint, hint)

In the meantime, I shall nevertheless continue to write, because it’s the only real reason I bother to make a living in the first place.  I do hope that you enjoy reading my work even a fraction as much as I enjoy writing it.  If so, I shall have done at least some good in the world.

TTFN