Friday, September 4, 2015

The Rarely Asked Questions of 2015

Chuck Allen asked: If I bought a John Wiswell lunch box (those cool metal ones like when I was young, not those cheap plastic or cloth kind they have today) what all would be included on the graphics?

I used to have the He-Man one of these! Mine will probably have the same number of swords on it. In fact, put Skeletor on there. Me high-fiving Skeletor, because that guy worked hard and clearly took flossing to the next level.

Grimlock. Wolverine and Jubilee (possibly riding Grimlock). A Rogue Knight and a Healer Slime from Dragon Quest (playing poker with Jubilee, who's still riding Grimlock). Beorn (losing that poker game). Lupin the 3rd, Jigen, and Goemon (stealing the pot from that poker game). Leland Gaunt sweeping the front stoop of his new shop, and Pyramid Head coming to greet him with gruesome baked goods.

What I'm saying is: my lunchbox is covered in copyright lawsuits.

Catherine Russell asked a literary three-parter: "What books do you read in your bathroom? Do you do a lot of reading there? How many books have you finished reading via 2 minute reading sessions in the throne room?"

a. Mostly short fiction and non-fiction, and comic books. Every October I stick a big Horror item in there, like the Walking Dead Compendium or Poe's Children. I've read a tremendous amount of manga in there.

b. Usually just a couple pages at a time. It's a sign of a great book like Max Gladstone's Full Fathom Five when I stick around to read an entire chapter. If it's something I'm profoundly into, like I was with Jo Walton's Among Others, I'll carry it back out with me to keep reading.

c. Probably about ten a year. Bathroom books double and bathtub books. Post-exercise soaking often benefits from a good story.

Elephant's Child asked, "If you could give one person (other than yourself) a super power what would it be? Who would get it, and why?"

Kneejerk reaction is to give Jimmy Carter the ability to rearrange matter. I trust both his moral compass and his ability to organize a community to make the most of it. Plus, who doesn't want to see a Magical Jimmy Carter? I guess maybe the Reagans?

Alex J. Cavanaugh asked: "What's the most illegal thing you've ever done? Did it involve jello or burning bags?"
I suffered a witch to live once.

Mary Garber asked, "If you could be instantly transported to anywhere on earth (and back, if you so desire) just once, where would you go, and for how long? Now, make it the solar system."

The trouble with teleporting is there's no safety application. If I visit the Marianas Trench, I'll drown before I get to wave at any neat fish. If I visit the Haribo factory, security will tackle me before I get to jump into a pile of gummy bears. And while I'd like to visit Borderlands Books, the woods of Washington, the streets of Moscow and Cork, those are all places it's feasible to go. Better to use teleportation on an impossible wish.

So my grim answer is that I'd wait until I was close to my likely death, and then teleport to the sun. Death would be instantaneous, which is why I'd only visit at that moment. But for a fraction of that instant I'd be privy to a raw experience of something earth has been eight minutes away from for evolution's entire run. All the warmth, all the brilliance that we try to photograph, or to reflect upon on cloudless days. I'm so used to pain that turning into fuel for the sky-god wouldn't deter me from making it my end. Turn me not to dust, but part of the brilliance that has inspired poets since they were only plants rhyming in pollen and chlorophyll.

I'd just have to live a full life before then. Maybe get a tan. I could use more sun.

Nadya Duke asked: "Who would win in a knife fight - Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton?"

That one's neck-and-neck. Literally, they might immediately knife each other in the neck because they were daft and cutting ladies. But Anthony has the reach and is just a little faster to turn on you if you've crossed her (just ask around the NSWA). Stanton's best chance is to tuck her chin, go for the intestines, and not tacitly oppose African American rights.

Carrie Bailey asked: "In case of the apocalypse, how do you think you'd define your life as worthwhile if you actually survived, but none of your friends did."

I've put more thought into this than is healthy, but it's also a sticking point in much of my fiction. Your direct loved ones are gone. That really sucks, right? But you can still strive to make the world a better place. Put out those demonic fires, plant whatever seeds were stored, collect and record history.

And it's likely there are other survivors who could use your help. It depends on the apocalypse. If it was killer robots, then even my sickly self can clean guns for the resistance soldiers. If it's plague, I can counsel people with grief, as survivor guilt is likely to be widespread.

Awful as desolation is, reducing the world to near-zero means you have to accomplish very little to have a significant practical effect. The four trees I plant may become a forest people rely on two hundred years after we kick the Fire Nation out.

The real world isn't so different. I'm a tiny part in a tremendous machine with so many things that could improve. I try to contribute to food banks, blood drives, and my beloved industry of fiction. But it is easier in our world where my friends are still alive. One imagines you're a lucky apocalypse survivor if you make new ones. Luckier still if one's a billy-bumbler.

Cassie Nichols asked: "What scent triggers a happy memory for you?"

When you open up a container of Country Time Lemonade Iced Tea Mix, and the powder particles get in your nose? It has both a scent and a nose-feel that reminds me strongly of the red dust at my childhood baseball diamonds. It brings back the heat of the day, the fun of playing with a few friends, and the orange dimming of the sky as afternoon waned. They really got me hooked on that drink. Product placement in my psyche.

And Cassie Nichols asked: "Would you spend a year as a dragon? If yes: How big a dragon would you be? What would you hoard? Where would you make your home? If no: Why not?"

Given one of my great fantasies is to become Smaug but not live life as a jackass, yes, I would like to be a dragon for a year. My first order of business will be to arrive at an NFL game and demand seating. When they claim I'm obese, I'll offer to buy two tickets. If they deny me entry, I'll ask what their favorite kaiju movie is.

I actually look forward to the legal ramifications. Do I have to file a flight plan with the FTA for my ride to work? Do I have to pay taxes on my bed of gold? How funny will it be when I eat the IRS and turn their building into my new den?

The power will be used for good (occasionally). Let some Make-A-Wish kids "slay" me. I can guest star on Game of Thrones to relieve the world of their terrible CGI for a year.

I'll very badly want to hoard books, but living an entity of fire, I may become the world's worst book-burner. That could make me less popular with Tor and Harper Collins than I want to be. Gradually I'll realize that you hoard precious metal because it metals but remains precious metal, whereas if you hoard iPhones, they bend in your pocket. I'll want to hoard hamburgers, but much as I love them, they don't keep for very long.

So at the end of things, I think I'll hoard recycling. Plastic and tin need melting for re-processing anyway. Cheap, and everyone wants to get rid of them anyway. They'll probably wash the damned glass bottles first before giving them to the dragon. Sort those plastics, people, or he'll eat you. For a year.

A New Challenger Appears! Alex Haist asked: "What is your favorite instance of bureaucratic drama?"

The West Wing is one of my favorite shows in television history. The scene when the power flickers and Bartlet is fed up with congress and tells the Speaker to shut the government down has stuck in my memory for quite some time.

The show created several memorable moments of unreal bureaucracy, like John Goodman taking over the White House, and both political parties being terrified the country will sympathize with the other.

It's something I wish Fantasy bureaucracies would do. We've had an awful lot of kings and not many interesting wrinkles of power. If Mervyn Peake had been more prolific, he probably would have come up with some great stuff there. Daniel Abraham is trying his damndest right now with nifty results.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Civil War Draft: How the Sides of Captain America: Civil War Were Decided

Tony: My movie came first so I get to draft first.

Cap: Is that how this works?

Tony: Vision is essentially my operating system plus Ultron's ultimate body. So, gimme.

Cap: It's on already? Uh, alright, alright. You have a guy who can fly. I want a guy who can fly. I need somebody I can trust. He's the highlight of that Ant-Man movie. Falcon.

Tony: Hell. Take Ant-Man, too.

Cap: I don't know...

Falcon: What? No, take both of us.

Cap: Do I have to?

Ant-Man: I don't know why anybody wants me either. Is Carol Danvers in these movies yet?

Falcon: You guys know this is a war, right? Civil War?

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