Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Trying to think up a new religion for this fantasy novel

"This is not like European monotheism or trinitarianism, Alfred. The closest that comes to them are the old Greeks who saw gods everywhere. But these people don’t have a Zeus or Hera. There aren’t human avatars for them. They think most of the gods hate them and couldn’t comprehend something like Yahweh becoming Christ. Here, the river is a god. Every fork it takes is another god. Every fistful of earth is an alien and powerful entity to these people, and they don’t trust them. They hate the world. Flash foods ruin their crops, winds knock over their homes and wild animals eat their young and sick. Sickness! These people figured out that disease was an alien entity long before we did. They see disease the same way they see jackals: things the bigger world spit out to hurt them. If they can put reins on an ox, then the ox is a pet, but not a friend or equal. The world is only so amiable as they can force it to be. We’re afraid of rats, but they hate see them as in league with hurricanes. They’re still not convinced the Europeans aren’t unreasonable earth spittle sent to kill them. Their hatred of the world is why they strip mine. Their gods aren’t transcendent; they want to rip the literal heart out of landscapes that have caused them so much grief, so long as that heart has ore in it that will benefit them. The world is not their friend. Their religion has not tried to be at peace with the land, the sea or the divine. Since the beginning, they’ve been at war with all of it."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Peer Advice

He didn't look like a mugger. The guy wore a bland suit and tie, a hint of paunch poking out through his jacket and thick glasses that obscured his expression. Jack slapped at his arms, breaking out of his grip.

"Back off, gramps!" he said, even as he backed into the bathroom where the man had dragged him. The middle-aged mugger stood in front of the door.

"Good work against Polaris this morning. His fields are useless if he keeps casting them where you just were. You use your speed smartly. But you can't dress like this at your day job."

Jack put up a fist, threatening to punch the guy if he came forward again.

"You need even thicker glasses. You've got the wrong guy."

"Son, I don't need x-ray vision to see through your disguise."


Rather than come closer, the man pointed at Jack’s suit jacket.

"I like the coat. It's baggy and hides how big you are. But tuck your shirt in a little looser so it bunches up. Bigger pants help, too. Always at least a size too large and even if they look baggy, you come off fat. If the public's idea of you is a fat reporter, they will be much less likely to connect you with a hero."

Jack glanced into the bathroom mirror for a split second, faster than this guy could possibly realize. But no, he didn’t look anything like his alter ego. Between the hairstyle and designer suit, how could anyone recognize him?

He glared into the assailant’s glasses.

"Now listen, I don't know who you think you--"

"Don't look people in the eyes like that.” The mugger-come-fashionista adjusted his glasses. “You need to look people in the eyes as a hero so they'll respect you. As a reporter, look down more. Maybe at your shoes or a notepad. Then you don't seem so assertive. Again, it helps throw people off.”

"Mister, you're making a fool of yourself. I'm walking through that door and if you follow me, I'll--"

Before he could stop him, the guy yanked Jack's collar down, revealing the yellow spandex shirt beneath. And before Jack could slap his hand, the guy was out of reach and in front of the door again.

Jack gawked. How could the guy be so fast?

"You're a speedster. Use it. Never wear your costume under your clothes. You can change in a closet, a restroom, a phone booth if you can find it, and no one will see anything but a blur. Don't be lazy."

Jack studied this guy’s face, but every inch was generic beyond the glasses. He had a big chin. Who had a big chin? Even blocking the door and scrutinizing Jack, this guy seemed as intimidating as a bowl of Jell-O.

"And don't just muss up your hair when you go out. You're good looking and people will notice. If you're not going drastic, get a mask, a cowl, or at least a costume that attracts the eyes more than solid yellow with no logo. Trust me: you do not want a guy with so much free time he bends the laws of gravity to rob banks figuring out your civilian identity."

“Okay. Okay.” Jack put up his palms as though to ward off anymore haymakers on his appearance. “Thanks, I guess. But who are you?”

The guy pulled press credentials from inside his jacket and pinned them on his breast pocket. They hung crooked. The name was “C. KENT.”

"A colleague.” For a moment, C. Kent’s voice was much deeper. “We’ve got to look out for the new guys. You’ll do the same some day."

The next thing Jack knew, the bathroom door closed. He didn’t even see the guy leave.

“Fast for a fat ass,” Jack remarked to himself and turned to the mirror. He buttoned his collar back up and tried to envision himself fighting crime in a cowl. Could that look cool?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Libratarians

From the annals of failed movements: libratarians. These were a group of California librarians that felt libraries should be free. That seemed odd to most other California librarians, given that libraries were already free, subsidized by government to provide the public with knowledge. But Libratarians didn't mean for libraries to be free of charge; they wanted them free of government influence. No books would ever be banned, and librarians were free to place a few service charges. The Libratarians followed trending books and anticipated releases. Bram Stoker's Dracula was still free, but the Twilight novels were fifty cents to check out, with a twenty-five cent charge if you wanted to get on the waiting list. Dan Brown, John Grisham and the like were "evergreen" titles, with year-round charges. Libratarians claimed sympathy for the public and allowed some titles to go with charges only part of the year, like those books necessary for school book reports that only began having fees in September. Being true to the market, when a book like Eclipse remained in high demand despite the fifty cent fee, they raised the fee. It was not them; it was the market. If their salaries rose, that was the market. If they were the only libraries for dozens of miles and so kids had to come to them, that was the market. And when the Kindle and iPad eventually undercut their reading fees and didn't have wait-lists, their going out of business was also the market.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Guilty By Nature

[MEGATRAN, a Chinese knockoff of Megatron made from blue plastic instead of white, sits on the right side of the booth. ARYANA sits on the left side wearing a tanned hide pantsuit and nursing a margarita. GRUFF STOVER sits in the center of the booth, his back to the window, wearing a grey sweatshirt and admiring MEGATRAN’s giant plastic cannon.]

Megatran: I'm not a very nice person by nature. It's only by forcing myself to seem nice that I can make it through the day.

Aryana: You're guilty by nature?

Megatran: My mother was Jewish.

[GRUFF looks inside the cannon. His voice echoes out.]

Gruff: I don’t believe that.

Aryana: I think you're nice.

Megatran: I'm really not. I'm judging people constantly. I took a night class in acting just to figure out how to look at people with sympathy. Before that I just stared.

Aryana: You're kidding.

Megatran: I'm not! I love people, but I don't love much about them. They drive me insane, but I want the best for them. The best is a nicer me.

Gruff: Being nice is overrated.

Megatran: I'm a writer. I cannot wait for the day I'm overrated. That means sales and torrents of praise.

Gruff: Torrents of unwarranted praise.

Megatran: And I'm unwarrantedly nice. [Points his non-gun hand at GRUFF] You've been trying to poke holes in my feelings all morning and I'm still giving you a ride to the airport. The least I can get out of it is wealth and legions of fans who should know better.

Gruff: I think you can get less.

Megatran: [Points at GRUFF again] That! Right there!

Aryana: What?

Megatran: When he said that? I judged his smugness, his posture and his crooked teeth.

[GRUFF sits up a little straighter. He purses his lips self-consciously.]

Aryana: Oh you did not.

Megatran: I did. Now he's doing the close-your-mouth thing when somebody reminds you your teeth might be bad. Everybody does it. It's neurotic.

[ARYANA nods. The table hesitates. Then ARYANA closes her lips, hiding her teeth. MEGATRAN stares at ARYANA for a moment, then looks sympathetic.]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: AE Micro Contest Entry

Today’s story is a contest entry. AE Micro is launching their zine with a contest for 200-word stories on the theme of “micro.” I’ve written them one and they’ve posted it.

John Wiswell’s “Microscope” is Entry 27 on this page:

It’s about a Biology student who sees something in a microscope, and that thing seeing him back. The universe ends 200 words later.

You have to scroll down to read it because, in the interest of fairness, they’ve posted every entry on the same page in order of submission. There is no public voting. You can still have a read and tell me what you think here. Maybe you’ll whip up your own super-short.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Quantum physicists make bad TV salesmen.

As soon as he spotted the salesman, Bob grabbed his giant cardboard box and hustled at him. The salesman backed up into a rack of cartoon BluRays, putting up a hand in potential defense.

“Hey!” Bob barked.

“What’s the matter, sir?”

Bob dropped the TV at the salesman’s feet, then pulled open the top. A widescreen HD set was inside.

“Dude, this TV doesn’t work.”

“What’s wrong? It’s a 3D television.”

Bob rapped his knuckles on the top of the set.

“There’s no 3D. There isn’t even 2D. It won’t turn on.”

The salesman straightened. “Oh, it’s on. You just can’t see the picture.”

“How is that 3D?”

“Because you can only see the picture on a 4D television. The fourth dimension is time. Without time you can’t perceive moving images. A 1D is the same as a –”

Bob floored him with a right hook. The manager collapsed onto some cardboard boxes clutching his chin. He looked up to find his customer storming towards Customer Service.

“Mom was right,” the salesman to himself. “Quantum physicists make bad TV salesmen.”

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Quilted For Your Pleasure: Dragonslayer Armor

Welcome to the latest Quilted For Your Pleasure. Click on the above image to read this week's comic. This is actually a remake of an early Bathroom Monologue.

It was composed in the bathroom by John Wiswell. John recently saw Whisper of the Heart and cherished it and will punch you in the face if you so much as imply disapproval.

It was drawn by Max Cantor. Max will watch Whisper of the Heart soon or meet a gruesome end.
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