Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Necroromancer, OR, Deathly Romantic

They worked until the work was done – not until they tired, or until their unions compromised they break, or until they got a raise. They were paid exactly what they asked for the work and they asked nothing for the work. When the work was done, they stood still or found a decent place for sitting and sat like ladies and gentlemen. They were the best the world had to offer, and he was always adding to their offered numbers, so that there was always a new person to meet and work alongside. He didn’t hate living society. The necromancer simply preferred to work with professionals.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Executed

Marianne Smythe murdered two people and assisted in the murders of at least five others. When she was arrested, she had the hatchet, the circular saw and the rope in her trunk, and the DNA of one victim under her fingernails. She refused to assist the police in pursuing her fellow cultists. She never feigned innocence or regret, and at her sentencing hearing, seemed almost giddy for the coming needle.

I’ve told you about Marianne Smythe so I can tell you about the two people who went to her execution. No relative of any victim attended, as the business was something of a mess, and a massive hailstorm pelted the state that night. Solomon James had no interest in the case, other than being the temporary guardian of Jedidiah Smythe. Jedidiah was the second person in attendance, his interest being that his mother was being executed. He was seven years and two months old at the time. He was not known to act out, or to speak with any frequency.

Many people in the institution, the state, and even the free press feared the boy would get the wrong impression from the viewing, but he could not be barred and willingly arrived twelve hours early to beat the hail. Upon his arrival, the warden gave him a grim tour of the facility, assuring him of how humane it was.

As they waited, Mr. James explained how law enforcement didn’t always catch wrongdoers, but pursued all those they could, and always did take care of the innocent.

The District Attorney arrived at noon and gave him a highly redundant lecture on the legal system, its checks and balances, and how many wise people had set up many ways to defend innocent people from punishment.

The warden avoided Jedidiah after that, and the D.A. left early for a fundraiser. Mr. James was obligated to stay with the boy. Marianne Smythe declined to see him, which made sense, as she had declined to see Jedidiah for seven years. For none of this did he act out, and he spoke only to answer “Yes” to the occasional rhetorical question.

I’ve told you about Jedidiah Smythe’s day to tell you about his evening. He sat in one chair for three hours straight, watching the second-hand on a clock. At a specific juncture he was moved to the viewing room, where he sat in another chair watching through a plate of glass. Someone snuck him a cup of coffee. It went cold and stale on his armrest, the top unpopped. It remained on his armrest as he departed the room after the injections finished their course. He did not act out, and did not speak.

It was only as the institution let out a collective sigh that Jedidiah Smythe initiated anything. He paused by an officer’s leg, touching his trouser for a moment.

When the officer bent to ask if he needed help, Jedidiah Smythe reported, “I know this place only executes the guilty, and that the law finds the guilty, prosecutes them until they’re dead. My guardian and I are both witnesses to a gang of doctors killing my mother. They’re all still here, so it won’t be hard to catch them. How long will it be before we can kill them?”

The officer exchanged astonished glances with Mr. James. As they hesitated, Jedidiah’s eyes went from him to the second-hand of the nearest clock.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Death to Rainbow Heathens

Ours is the Holy Orange Empire, and we have always been at war with Green. It is only Green who have always been splintered, and the cracks in the world began with them. Third sliver from the east of a continent of Orange, we know in our hearts we are truly the center, and the Holy Orange Empire has always been the center of the world.

All Orange is our right, and once Green is chipped away, we will surely reunite. Believe not what you‘ve heard from the Coast of Red or the Isles of Turquoise – they were never part of a whole, and their blending with the Orange slivers is unholy. They spread the fractures that have broken our glass world. Once we were a window into like alike the sun, and we will be again once this war is won.

Death to rainbow heathens.

This was written in response to a photo prompt Catherine Vibert and Lascaux Flash.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Books That Changed How You Saw Fiction

Readers, writers, extraterrestrials – today I have a query for you.


Give us the author, the title, and how. The “how” can be any significant way you choose. Doubtless there are many books that affect you, but pick the one that comes to mind first or that you’d most like to share. If Finnegan’s Wake challenged the validity of linear narratives, or Among Others validated autobiographical fiction, or The Color Purple made you demand authors write deeper women, or Cat’s Cradle left you with an indelible love of tangents – please, share.

I’m fascinated by the lasting effects of literature. We hear about canons, but reading is often a much more individual thing, and we all have books that cast a shadow over libraries. All I ask is that you keep it honest and brief. You can tweet your answer if you like, though some people may want a few sentences. Here’s an example:

Richard Matheson’s Hell House had the gall to seemingly end
and then drop a complete second twist ending in ten pages.
He executed it so quickly that I expected what was still in my right hand would be the typical blank pages and publication notes -
until I read the pages. It played with expectations of what novelists
do in page-lengths in a way that begged me to experiment.

See? Not so tough, though now I’ll have to think up another. In a couple weeks I’ll compile everyone’s answers into a megapost. If you can beat the above for brevity, you’re winning. If we’re lucky, we’ll all walk out of this with a revealing reading list.

Goodreads, circa 1874

So: what book changed fiction for you? And how?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Please Don’t Be This Artist

In 2010 I saw a great movie that went totally under most people’s radars. Even I barely watched it, but caught the trailer and was intrigued enough to put it on my Netflix list. Among the movie’s many strong points was its soundtrack, which mixed ambient sound, classical music and modern instruments, turning some scenes very cheeky and others downright disturbing. I was excited to hear it over and over, to write to it, and to promote it to others. This is how I respond when I like music.

I’ve spent the last two years trying and failing to buy this soundtrack.

I won’t name the movie or its distributor because I don’t want to single out its composer for derision, nor will I name that composer. The day after I saw the movie, I searched for the soundtrack through Google, Amazon, and eventually tried iTunes and Youtube. I couldn’t find it for sale or streaming anywhere. I even resorted to the forbidden areas of the internet, without luck.

Figuring it had limited distribution (if any), I tracked down the composer’s recording label. Their website was a post-modern mess, so minimalistic that it took me what felt like an hour to find a contact feature. They never messaged me back, but I did find the composer’s social networks. When I discovered his Twitter account, I was elated.

He didn’t respond to any of my tweets, and I found that he’d set his account to Private, so I couldn’t read anything he said. I sent him a request to follow him.

It was 2011 before he accepted my request. In 2011, I still hopped on the opportunity. I tweeted at him that I enjoyed the score very much, and was there a way to buy it?

There was no response that day, week or month. A month later, I tweeted at him again. I couldn’t DM him because he wasn’t following me, but I didn’t mind that. It was also then that I noticed his account only tweeted every few months, when his music showed up in something. At that point there would be a single tweet, telling his hundred followers to go watch this movie or show. Because his account was set to Private, no one except his hundred followers ever saw this. It couldn’t show up in any keyword searches or conversations. And never in his accounts history had he actually responded to anyone about anything. He was unilaterally marketing to almost no one.

Within the last month I entered the most desperate and stupid ploy. Seeing that he’d tweeted within the last three minutes, I sent him one more @ message asking if his work might become available eventually. He’s never replied to it. Good chance, he never will. And that's fine - it's clearly a lost cause, and I'll leave him alone.

Maybe he doesn’t know how Twitter works. Maybe he can’t get the rights to sell the soundtrack and is too frustrated about it to talk to potential consumers. Maybe he’s almost blind and can barely use screens, or maybe he’s in a cult, or maybe he’s secretly a dog. I don’t know and I don’t want to judge this individual, but to judge this public appearance.

Specifically, everyone: don’t do this.

Maybe you’re so busy that you can’t reply to every fan comment, or you can’t check into social networks daily. That happens. But come on, the least you can do is:

1)      Don’t hide your promotion.
2)      Don’t refuse to engage with people who need help buying your stuff.

Now ideally, there’d be a 3), and to me, 3) is the most important.

3)      Be courteous to the people who like your art.

But I understand that 3) is tough for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, and nobody can sustain that all of the time. Even the nicest people have raw days. You’ll have a lot more, though, if you do the above.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Grandpa Defends Tolkien

“He should have just sent the eagles,” I said, making the greatest mistake of my week.

“Oh, you like the giant birds?” asked Grandpa. “I’m sure they would have been inconspicuous flying over several hundred miles of terrain that’s populated solely by armies, flying reptiles and the ghost of The Devil. That couldn’t go wrong.”

“Just fly straight to Mount Doom.”

“Because they wouldn’t look there?”

“They weren’t looking for the hobbits there!”

“Because they’re not twenty feet wide and flying overhead!”

“Then send the army.”

“Which is distinctly smaller than Sauron’s and lacks the home field.”

“They went anyway!”

“And they only won because the little boys destroyed the ring.”

“They could still go and distract him while the eagles fly over.”

“Again, giant birds fleeing battle to dive into one of his most sensitive locales would draw attention. Here.” At this point Grandpa made a circle with his index finger and thumb. He held it midway between him and his grandson. His left hand balled into a fist and loomed like a cobra preparing to strike over his head. “Try dropping anything into this hole while I use this hand to punch you in the face.”

“Grandpa!” He pushed all the way to the back of his bunk. “I didn’t know you took Lord of the Rings so seriously.”

“I don’t. Fantasy is for nancies. But Tolkien and I both served in the European theatre, and I’m not going to let people badmouth his work just because they like birds.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Round One, OR, Amateur Boxing Advice

“So, the first round's in the books, and I just wanted to update you on what I learned about your opponent’s strengths. For instance, he’s really good at punching you in the head. Looks like he was born to do it. He’s got a great right, so maybe you should try dodging it next time so I can get a look at his left. His left is presently an enigma. Could be a pure southpaw for all I know.

“In terms of weaknesses, he really likes hitting you when you don’t him back, which would be a weakness if he seemed to get tired. But I don’t see how the human hand can be stronger than the human skull, so if it’s your strategy to pop one of his knuckles with your forehead, I mean, you’re the professional. God bless, and see you if you make through round two.”
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