Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Friendly Exchange

"You know what they say. 'A friend in need...'?"

"Is someone you'd help?"

"Well, now I feel like a cynical asshole."

"Happy to help."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Tower of Babble

This is one of the oldest apocalypses, though the most recent that had signs of deliberate and divine intervention. This is at least thirty apocalypses ago, and there’s precious little record of it. Still, no matter how true it is, it’s quite popular, especially on this side of the Uncanny Valley, where the government isn’t so popular.

It came about because of a construction job. They were one of the first empires in the history of the world, maybe the very first. A little club of warlords, of gremlins and satyrs and humans, the most pernicious critters in the west, got their peoples together. No two tribes spoke the same tongue, and no dissidents were permitted within their tribes, so they didn’t know what they were doing until they showed up.

High in the Cloud Hills, the tallest mountains anyone’s ever climbed, they carried stone slabs. Some were so huge we still can’t figure how they got them up there, but there they still stand. They enslaved the nine-legs and dorads and centaurs, and the vampires to labor at night. They spread the infection so as to have a more active nocturnal construction crew, which soon outpaced the daytime one.

No laborer knew anymore than where he was putting his block. They couldn’t discuss it, and so it was weeks before they realized their slabs were coalescing into the shape of tower. And though the peoples were ignorant and hungry, they took pride in their grand structure, for every day it stretched taller than any person had ever been. It pierced the clouds, and laborers perished walking through thunderstorms. Others froze from the ethereal climate. There seemed to be sudden and wicked weather up there, as though the sky was fighting back. The stairs grew increasingly narrow and soon slick, such that centaurs could no longer navigate them, and new diseases brewed at those terrifying heights, traveling down the tower and out into the world.

But it wasn’t a plague that ended this tower-building reign. It was a miracle, or a metaphor, depending on your bend. One morning all the species of the world awoke speaking the same language. Centaurs awoke beside slave-satyrs to find they fully comprehended each other, and their human overlords, and their gremlin architects. Our sources attribute the one language to serpentine gods, which hints at which species wrote the sources.

The first news was the common language, a tongue reporting on itself. But the second story to shoot down the tower were details of what was being constructed, at its base, and at the top, and what for. This tower was a conduit to control the sky, from which their rulers could lob lightning across the entire continent, or deny rain to anyone’s crops, and otherwise ensure expansion of the empire. Plans ran down the tower faster than any pair of feet, such as those to annihilate unruly tribes, many folk of which had come to help build this as a peace offering.

An informed public can be hazardous to tyrants. When that informed public grossly outnumbers you and is already inside your monstrous tower, they are potentially more hazardous. That morning workers at the foundation looked up to see it raining politicians.

The laborers usurped their labor, and with influence over the winds, there was a golden age of agriculture. Species that had fought each other witlessly for centuries now comprehended and cooperated. Or so they say. Everyone understanding each other seems to have created more problems, at least in the modern age. We don’t know what wiped out their unilinguistic utopia. We only know there’s very little of that tower left up there.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Who Reads Anymore?

Sure, you could write your book. But who will read it? It’s got to have the philosophy, the big ideas that are touched upon without going too deep. You don’t want to alienate readers by writing over their heads.

Now if you want a movie deal for this populist philosophical masterpiece, go SciFi. People have been paying Orson Scott Card for years just to mess up trying to make a movie out of his stuff.

On second thought, it’d sell more if it was Fantasy. Preferably Medieval Fantasy, with swords and magic everyone gets.

If you really want it to sell, though? Make it YA. YA Fantasy? They will snort it off the page. People stand in line for teen-friendly make-believe.

The only way you could top a good YA Fantasy is by… well, not writing a book. Movies, Youtube ads, iPhone games! That’s where the real money is. Because who reads anymore?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mother Nature Vs. Illegal Immigration: Deporting Humanity

There is considerable debate over immigration in the U.S. Conservatives would have no illegal immigration, and are resoundingly shouted down as bigots and historically ignorant. After all, the United States of America was founded by European immigrants who settled it without permission of the locals, and often with bloodshed. If you aren’t related to Sitting Bull or Red Cloud, you should shut up about this topic.

Yet this critique misses a fundamental American point. Reconsider the indigenous peoples, those pre-American Americans, those absolutely-not-Indians. They did not start on this continent, nor even in this hemisphere. Humans evolved in Africa and spread outward over the course of millions of years. Even the Native Americans immigrated here, without permission.

Without permission from whom, you ask?

From Nature. You can tell nature didn’t want them here because as soon as it realized what was happening, it melted or tectonically shifted their land-bridges away, preventing any further immigration for centuries. As for those who remained on her shores?  What was Mother Nature’s immigration policy?

The mountain lion.

Or, consider the rattlesnake.

Or, consider the Grand Canyon, a 277-mile long drop into certain death.

Or, consider the winters so abominable they were worse than our Global Warming ones, and these natives didn’t even screw with the environment to cause them.

Nature has a long history of telling humans to get the fuck out. You think anti-Irish Immigrant sentiment was bad in the 1920’s? Consider that the incoming hunter/gatherer immigrants travelled all the way from Canada to Argentina, on foot, just looking for food. Nowadays you can barely muster the willpower to go to the fridge for another beer.

The modern disparity is because the modern world, and America in particular, has recognized that Mother Nature is an abusive drunk that should be respected. That fridge runs on power that is killing her, and uses the power to refrigerate artificial chemicals in the beer that is killing you. We have surpassed our creators by killing both them and us, and one hopes will one day fulfill the dream of deporting everyone from this mortal coil.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Designer Genes, Redux

Muscle is hard to build and easy to lose. Meanwhile fat is easy to build, and while it is supposed to turn into energy, is hard to get rid of. But one pair of Tyrex's designer genes will switch this inefficient paradigm in time for bikini season.

Tired of your appendix rupturing when it's never done anything to help? Tired of testicles being so sensitive that one whack prevents you from being able to flee a threat to your masculinity? Or maybe you've always wanted magenta skin. When you look at all the stupidities of the human body, it's hard to believe in evolution at all, let alone an intelligent designer. Fortunately, Tyrex is here to help.

There is a mild-to-moderate risk of sprouting additional appendixes when using Tyrex. Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not use Tyrex (seriously, we're tired of fertile women suing us). Normal side effects include liver failure, morbid obesity, spontaneous belief in backwards reincarnation and magenta skin. Talk to your physician if you have asthma, heart conditions or swelling of the ankles. Otherwise, just get this stuff already. Ask your pediatrician about Tyrex Chewables (patent pending), because let's be honest, trying his best is not enough. You want a winner, and we will give him to you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gearing For ChiCon Workshops

Today I’m doing one of the hardest things I’ll do all year. I’m putting my current work-in-progress on the shelf at the 50,000-word mark in order to complete one more draft of my previous 110,000-word novel. Beyond the anxiety of abandoning some beloved characters right before something terrible happens to one of them, there’s the anxiety of having two weeks to return this book and turn out the new draft.

All the beta and theta readers have returned their copies, the family is out of the house, and in mid-July the ChiCon workshops open for submissions. If I’m lucky I’ll have this book in front of three incredible authors for a sit-down in September.

On the plus side, the feedback has been pretty glowing and I know how to accommodate just about everything. Every individual criticism, that is. In writing both of these novels I’ve found the biggest anxiety actually comes from an irrational sense of scope, of looking at the mountain of work rather than the individual bits. I know I can do all of this, I have done all of this before, and yet my lizard brain views it as impossible. It seems like the hardest thing in the world.

Of course, five minutes calling my cousin Will or looking up the latest from Syria disproves that notion. But it’s a notion.

I’ll apologize in advance of some Bathroom Monologues in the next few weeks are inspired by a book you can’t read yet, or if my Twitter feed turns into a stream of consciousness on the process. Feel free to jab me if I devolve too rapidly.

And thank you all, in earnest, for your support. I think I’m pretty close to rendering this the best thing I’ve ever written.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Conservatives Moving to Canada, and Other Wastes of Your Time

A week later, what haunts me from the pilot is the line,
"People choose the facts they want now."
Last week a different sort of news story took over the internet. On Twitter, a few apparent Conservatives claimed that if Obama defeats Romney in the upcoming presidential election, they will move to Canada. The users were not politicians, office-holders, or actually individuals of any note. They were merely people who said dumb things online. Their tweets were copied and pasted into mega-posts and ran as feature stories on sites I won’t name because I don’t want to send them further traffic.

This wasn’t the first time that the random opinions of people you never cared about before and will never care about again trended in social media. I first noticed it in March after the Hunger Games premiere, when a few bigots complained on Twitter that characters had been cast as black. That they were actually black in the novels didn’t matter to them. That there were very few people tweeting this and that none of the individuals had any significance didn’t matter to editors, who ran stories mocking their ignorance and pretended that the three or four quotes they’d found represented a large block of people.

After the “Moving to Canada” nonsense, I was disturbed at the rise of a new form of non-news: the story about someone of no significance who said something ignorant. Not who ran a KKK rally in front of a Mosque, not who protested en-masse at Wall Street, not who banned a minority’s customs or shot at soldiers. It’s much more worrisome than CNN pandering that “viewers tweeted this” about their headline story. Here, the feature is: “RANDOM GUY SAYS DUMB THING.”
"But the NYTimes needs those clicks!"

I’m used to (and sick of) the non-news story about a celebrity saying something offensive. Things Mel Gibson has said while inebriated have received more press than entire civil wars in Africa. It’s gossipy entertainment of some sort, and toxic of many other sorts, and largely a waste of the fourth estate.

These Twitter-quote stories are an expansion of celebrity infotainment. I understand that Gibson’s anti-Semitic remarks and movie-goers’ racism can be starting points for conversations about important social topics.

Except, they tend to spur very few conversations. I would have been blown away if Buzzfeed had featured a single journalist tracking down a single Conservative tweeter, finding out why they had radical misconceptions about Canada and Obama, culminating some sort of human exchange. But there is no dialogue with these individuals, only electronic shouting, and the Comments beneath such articles are full of partisan vitriol. The “Moving to Canada” story became an excuse for my Liberal friends to call Conservatives stupid all weekend. They were doing it anyway. This way they were only managing to do it more while being assured they learned nothing from reading the laziest possible news story.

It was hard not to line this “news story” up with the debut of HBO’s The Newsroom. The “Moving to Canada” nonsense was a sort of fodder for Liberal condescension, much as The Newsroom fodder for super-Conservative condescension. It’s hard not to reflect on the show’s plea for news media to focus on stories that matter. It’s also hard not to reflect on the Gawker columnist who told Aaron Sorkin that there should be a show about her site.
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