Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Proposing in New York

 Photo from @ThatEricAlper

Tony put his hands over his mouth. Jim held up his cell, the screen serving as proof. Confirmation. They jumped into each other’s arms. Overhead, the Empire State Building celebrated in all the colors of the rainbow.

“Wait,” Jim said into his ear, pushing away. “I’ve got to do this the right way.”

Jim fell to a knee, like he always did before push-ups. Except tonight his hands reached into his pocket and pulled out an elegant jewelry box.

“Anthony Harris, will you…”

Tony could scarcely hear the proposal over the honking horns and screaming tweens. Instead he read Jim’s features, the enthusiasm that was honestly too rare now blooming in his lips. As he mouthed the words, Tony watched the nicotine stains on his front teeth. God, he just would not quit menthols. He could smell it from here – shit, the smell had even gotten on his own shirt from the hug.

His lips stopped moving. His eyes were urging for a response, deaf to the general deafness in New York City tonight. Even that expression was too familiar. He just looked at you like you were supposed to give him what he wanted now.

Whether Jim heard him or not, he reached out and touched the box, saying, “You know Jim, we never talked about…”

And for the first time in New York State, a gay man wondered if he couldn’t do better. Speaking legally.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Stork Option" at Weird Tales!

Today's story only takes a minute. 1:03, to be precise. It's presented by Weird Tales Magazine.

I must have Ann VanderMeer for helping select this one. Weird Tales is the highest profile organization to buy one of my stories, even if they selected one of the all-time shortest.

Any 'Likes' on the Youtube page would be greatly appreciated. I've opened comments on this hub post if you'd like to respond on the Bathroom Monologues itself.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Publishing the Laundry List

A laundry list is a seldom-appreciated term.

“A laundry list of complaints.”

“A laundry list of political changes.”

“A laundry list of Hollywood celebrities.”

This is some laundry. People often mistake it as synonymous with the “grocery list.” That you make on the back of an envelope, adding beef and celery along with Snickers and ant repellant. Anything can go on a damned grocery list. You expand the thing as you march through the store. Nobody writes, “Four packs of diet cherry soda” on their grocery list at the start of the day.

Nobody writes “Four packs of diet cherry soda” on the laundry list at all. Most people don’t even write one. You just dump your fetid clothing into the machine and pray your white boxers don’t get tie-dyed again.

The few keepers of a laundry list are elegant souls. They have so little money and resources that they triage what they can afford to rid of its ass-smell this week.

2x thongs
2x socks
2x button downs
1x khakis

Sniff your blue khakis one more time.

2x khakis

That is a list that works in an extreme economy. A laundry list of criminal charges doesn’t have money laundering and parking in front of hydrants on it. No, that one is only for the baby you sodomized and the bank you blew up. Can we add the time you threatened a nun at gunpoint? This isn’t the grocery list of offenses. You can’t just throw a checkout-aisle felony-flavored Snickers onto the laundry list. This list affords only the bare necessities of your depravity.

So the next time you hear about a “laundry list of Hollywood celebrities” while Ashton Kutcher is on screen, be skeptical. Somebody probably isn’t doing their own washing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Mate

‘He didn’t call me ‘mate’ because he was Australian. That accent was actually Uranian, and he was trying to impregnate an earth girl.”

“So when he invited you to ride his spaceship…?”

“No, that was him being a pig.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

George Martin, Jim Butcher, and How Long Fans Should Wait

The long-awaited fifth installment in A Song of Ice and Fire.

 George Martin’s A Dance With Dragons is done. If it isn’t the most anticipated novel of the decade, it’s certainly the one that has the most ardent fans screaming at the guy whose work they supposedly adore. George Martin (or “George R.R. Martin” to people who know many more George Martins than I do) is the creator of The Song of Ice and Fire series, recently adapted into an HBO television show featuring as many bare female asses as possible. Martin is notorious for leaving the film and television industry to write books of scopes that their budgets couldn’t accommodate. He is also notorious for taking his sweet time. The previous book in his series was published in 2005, and fans have clamored for the next one ever since. Leading up to this announcement I joked that the HBO series was a boon to us: even if he co-wrote every episode, a successful adaptation would require him to finish the series so they could film it.

Dear readers, I make you this pledge: if it comes to it, I will drive you every bit as mad as George Martin. Barring duress or the unforeseen, I will not publish a book that isn’t done. That means taking the time to get the story right, and diligence in every ensuing draft, however many it takes. I will not sell you a half-assed book just because it’s faster. If I have the tremendous luck to achieve Martin’s success, I will keep millions of readers waiting until the book is worth their time.

Jim Butcher also made a big announcement this year. Originally his Ghost Story, the next installment in his bestselling Dresden Files series, was due out in April. At MarsCon he announced he was taking a few extra months to polish the novel and would instead release it July 26th. Fellow Fantasy novelist Patrick Rothfuss was actually filmed giving the news a double thumbs-up. This was great: a writer who could abuse his audience’s wallets instead asked them to please wait so he can release the book he wants it to be.

Martin’s and Butcher’s are different scenarios. To be fair, Martin announced he’d probably finish his book “in a year” about four years ago. Butcher’s delay was easier to handle, and not only because it was shorter. He came out in public, in front of fans, explained some reasons he wanted more time, and gave a specific date that was only a few more months away. If you can’t accept an author doing that, I don’t know what to do for you.

None of the harassment I’ve ever received over my writing has been from deadlines. I’m apparently punctual. That’s not why I hold this opinion. Larry McMurtry spent over a decade coming up with Lonesome Dove. If he was pounding the typewriter to make an annual deadline, we wouldn’t have that classic Western. The same goes for the lifetime Harper Lee put into To Kill a Mockingbird, and all the years Mark Twain eyeballed the unfinished Huckleberry Finn. In retrospect it’s funny to imagine the American canon getting angry fan mail to release that damned classic already.

Tardy authors can be hounded, petitioned and even threatened over their release schedules. Stephen King once received a photograph of a teddy bear and a note saying it would be dismembered if he didn’t get the next Dark Tower installment out soon. King jokingly thanked that fan in the ensuing Foreword. I don’t know if I’d be so jovial, but then we don’t know what his initial reaction was, and he’s dealt with worse. His wife once woke up to find a mad bomber had broken into their house. Luckily he was more mad than a bomber, and the explosives were actually pencil erasers.

Enthusiasts can be overwhelmed. The worst I’ve ever done was pretend I was rectangularly pregnant in order to sneak a 12-pack of Pepsi into The Phantom Menace. People get overwhelmed and do regrettable things. All anger over delays is regrettable. You don’t get those hours of negativity back, hours you could have spent reading a new author, doing your taxes, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or whatever you like to do. Whatever negative affirmation we get from nerd raging isn’t worth the time, and often comes from a disturbing sense of entitlement over other people.

George Martin has been called lazy, flighty, even abusive to his fans for not finishing the book in that original year. All this by people who’ve never met him. The celebrity culture aspect of this disturbs. It goes beyond people thinking that their 99 cents or $29.99 for the previous book entitles them to a steady feed of sequels.

What if George Martin succumbed to schizophrenia in 2006? How do you know he isn’t dying of some obscure disease and decided to keep it private while he arranged his affairs? Forget possibly writing himself into a corner, or needing to recharge his batteries, or going through an extensive re-drafting process that is not actually uncommon in the history of English literature. Instead ask if his wife didn't get acute cancer and he spent all the time since then shuttling her from appointment to appointment, cooking special meals, essentially living for two and jotting down chapters when he had the emotional energy left?

Even if you subscribe to their RSS and Twitter feeds, you don’t know the reasons authors are late. Authors have descended into suicide their families didn't see coming. You can't believe that Facebook updates give you all the inside information.

I suffer from a neuromuscular syndrome that gets so bad there are days I can't get out of bed. It’s been getting worse all week and I know that by the weekend, I’ll have at least a few days when productivity is impossible. If some day this grows severe enough that I fall months behind on composition, angry letters won't help anybody. In my case, the stress will actually feed through my system and make me sicker.

I realize gossiping about Charlie Sheen and judging Sarah Palin is cathartic for millions of people, but it’s also entirely illusory. People have always felt entitled. I get it, I even do it - though I've tried to weed it out of myself. Now we have the unparalleled capacity to think we know the existences of strangers. It goes beyond Neil Gaiman’s defense that “George R.R. Martin isn’t your bitch.” It’s a dismissal of your fellow human being, and in these cases, a fellow human being who is working on something you like.

In ways, you and I are strangers. I’m ignorantly assuming things about you – that you and anyone blessed with the love of literature can show amazing heart and patience to your fellow humans. It’s that kind of encouragement that drives many authors who’ve long since gotten rich enough to stop. I believe that we can be better to each other. And if that’s still too much, I believe there are other books to read while we wait.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Where the Muses Be

It soothes the artist to think all his ideas came from some person, some Muse. He can’t see it as himself, because the artist isn’t a person. He’s a gaping wound, or a hungry shell, or a mimic of real life, or an adherent to formulas and trends, or a disappointing son. In any case, he experiences himself as a conduit for make-believe. Fantasy and verisimilitude pour out of him, as a childhood reflex, and then as a learned unconscious behavior for the adult. The more he pays attention, the less he understands how it works.

He’s grateful to learn how to get it to work at all, which returns him to the origin. The Muse, that real person in the sky that slips him things to write. It’s an old idea, because people have had no clue why they’re good at things for a good long time.

The artist may be surprised to learn most of his ideas are jerry-rigged memories, experiences filtered or exact, weighed out in uneven proportions, his art imitating art, and sometimes life. His father’s boomerang collection crops up in the robot war story, and his second girlfriend’s hips in a nursery rhyme. No reader can recognize these origins. Often, the artist doesn’t either. He’s guided by a singular notion of a man bleeding ideas from a foreign vein. It focuses him, just as it did all the people who thought it before. It’s the one idea he’s entirely irresponsible for creating.

Where did we get this idea? It’s the one thing the Muse actually gave him. She figured, it was all he needed.
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