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

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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.

Mark Red

Mark Red Cover

Click here to see on Amazon

Demi-Vampire:

Mark Reed is an ordinary teenage boy. When he sees a woman being attacked, he rushes to help her, only to be stabbed by her assailant. But the woman he sought to aid was a vampire, and as he lies, bleeding to death in an alley, he sees her deal easily with her attacker. Then, unwilling to let him die because of the heroism of his actions, she saves his life…the only way she can.

The next day, Mark awakens to find that he has been changed in ways he could not have believed, potentially forever. Now he must hide his new nature from his family and friends, learning about his powers and the dangers they entail, and looking for a cure for his new condition. All the while he must guard against his nearly irresistible blood-lust, for if he should kill a human by draining their blood, he will become a full vampire.

And a full vampire can never be cured, even by death.

Now is the summer of our discontent made glorious winter by this blog post

Hello, good Thursday to you.  A very Happy Winter Solstice to all, and to all the longest night of the year.  At first glance that may not seem like something one ought to celebrate, yet cultures all around the northern hemisphere have celebrated it for time out of mind.  Mainly, I think, we revel in the fact that “this is as bad as it’s going to get.”  It’s actually one of the most festive times of the year, and that festive spirit is both an act of defiance of the darkness and a celebration of the imminent return of greater light.

Of course, as someone who writes mainly dark fiction (even my sci fi and my attempts at humor are quite shadowy), it might seem odd that I should celebrate the return of longer days.  But even most of the darkest stories tend to be about the struggle against the (metaphorical) nighttime, and the triumph of the light.

In long stories, at least, it’s generally necessary to come to a conclusion wherein the light triumphs and/or holds back the darkness.  There are exceptions, of course, many of them found in more “realistic” fiction, but the vast majority of novels end with the good guys winning, or at least with the bad guys losing.  This is understandable.  It’s a hell of a thing to journey through a story that’s 120,000 words long (and often quite a bit longer, as my novels tend to be), only to find that in the end everything goes to shit.  It’s even more terrible if the story is a series of novels.

Just imagine, for instance, that you finish reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” only to find that in the end Harry dies, and Voldemort wins.  Not only would it be a bummer—even if you’re a fan of good bad guys, as I am—but it would also make you unlikely to read the books again, or to recommend them to a friend.  It’s just too hard to undertake a seven-book odyssey knowing that your beloved heroes lose.  Of course, you always consider the possibility that they might lose as you read the books for the first time, and J.K. Rowling pulls no punches in having terrible things happen to characters we have grown to love.  But you nevertheless read her books, and others, with the optimism born of experience, that in the end, even if things aren’t exactly “happily ever after,” at least the immediate evil will have been contained or destroyed.  Our heroes sometimes come to a peaceful, productive life at the far end of their trials, à la Harry Potter; sometimes, they pay what seems an unendurable price for the benefit of defeating evil (poor Roland Deschain!).  But we can be reasonably safe in the assumption that, though all may not be well, the immediate threat will have been overcome.

This is just one of the advantages fiction has over reality.

On the other hand, one of the great, fun things about short stories is that the good guys don’t necessarily win in the end.  Short stories don’t even have to end with the bad guys losing.  In fact, they may end with everything just about as bad as it can possibly be.  In this, short stories really are Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, and sometimes it’s a box of chocolates made by Monty Python’s Whizzo Chocolate Company, where the best you can hope for is a Cherry Fondue that’s extremely nasty (but we can’t prosecute you for that), and you might just get a Crunchy Frog, a Cockroach Cluster, a Ram’s Bladder Cup, an Anthrax Ripple, or even a Spring Surprise (“covered in dark, velvety chocolate, the moment you pop it into your mouth, stainless steel bolts spring out and plunge straight through both cheeks”).

“Where’s the pleasure in that?” as Inspector Praline understandably exclaims, and you may well share his sentiments.  But…there is pleasure in that, at least in the metaphorical version of it that is the dark short story with no happy ending.  And I’m not quite sure why, but I really enjoy writing (short) stories that summon the shade of Jim Morrison, taunting, “No one here gets out alive.”

(Yes, we are mixing not merely metaphors and genres, but entire art forms here.  Don’t worry.  We can handle it.  We are large, we contain multitudes.)

Speaking of short stories:  I am almost ready to release “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” on Kindle, in a newer, better version than the one I posted here.  I know it’s taking a long time, but as I’ve said before, this would go a lot faster if enough people bought my books that I could survive by writing full time (hint, hint).

For those who didn’t get the chance to read “Ifowonco” here on this blog, I’m going to make you wait and find out on your own whether the story is a lovely English Toffee or a Spring Surprise.  Either one can we wonderful.  Like Mr. Milton (the owner of the Whizzo Chocolate Company), I’m very proud of my creations, and like him I use no artificial additives or preservatives of any kind.  I will warn you, though, that even at my most sugary, I don’t tend to create purely light and sweet things; even my brightest creations use dark chocolate.

All right, enough with the frikking candy metaphors.  Jesus!

In closing, I want to once again put out a request for feedback on the possibility of creating “Author’s Notes” for my published works, and posting them—with clear identification—as “reviews” on Amazon, hopefully for the benefit of those considering buying the books.  As far as I can tell, this is allowable within Amazon’s guidelines.

Of course, an alternative to this would be posting my author’s notes here, on this very blog.  In a way, that’s what the blog is, after all:  A sort of weekly author’s note.  I’m fine with that idea, and I think it might be fun to write the notes and post them here, but they would really only be useful for those who already read the blog; they wouldn’t provide any benefit for someone shopping through Amazon.  So, I do think the idea of doing such a note/review might be good, but I’m leery of undertaking such a thing if people would consider it to be in very bad taste.  I’m willing to do things in bad taste, but very bad taste is worth avoiding, I think.  Which is why I recommend the Crunchy Frog over the Cherry Fondue.

Please take care when buying your sweeties, please do enjoy the advent of longer days to come, and please give me your opinion, if you have one, on the author’s note idea.

TTFN