Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Axis of Feminism, Axis of Decency

Please mark the acceptable behaviors on the chart below.

____ 1. Ignoring the girl in the garish and revealing costume, whether on purpose or simply being otherwise engaged.

____ 2. Briefly glancing at the girl in the garish and revealing costume.

____ 3. Briefly glancing directly at a partially exposed erogenous zone on the girl in the garish and revealing costume.

____ 4. Properly looking at a partially exposed erogenous zone on the girl in the garish and revealing costume.

____ 5. Staring, or otherwise properly looking for a length no less than four complete seconds, at a partially exposed erogenous zone on the girl in the garish and revealing costume.

____ 6. Taking a photograph of a partially exposed erogenous zone on the girl in the garish and revealing costume.

____ 7. Demanding a girl in the garish and revealing costume defend her knowledge of the character and source material that inspired it.

____ 8. Shouting condemnations or related expletives at a girl in the garish and revealing costume if her replies are not satisfactory.

____ 9. Following a girl in the garish and revealing costume across part of the convention center, while engaging in any form of looking and/or arguing.

____ 10. Following a girl in the garish and revealing costume across the length of the convention center, while engaging in any form of looking and/or arguing.

____ 11. Following a girl in the garish and revealing costume across the length of the convention center, into an event, and demanding her attention.

____ 12. Following a girl in the garish and revealing costume out of the convention center and to a restaurant, shopping center, or her hotel.

____ 13. A felony.

Thank you for participating in our
survey about the remaining hope for humanity.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Computer Education

The Mother Unit led its newly-manufactured class into the museum.

“It’s like traveling through time,” the Mother Unit executed. All the little computers laughed in perfect synchronicity.

Deactivated computers hung on the walls to illustrate a lineage of obsolete models. By the door there stood a display of the contemporary 1.5 cubic centimeter computer and its 3.5 ancestor, both in the shadow of an archaic 6.0 centimeter model that had roamed the earth as far back as a month ago. It taxed their RAM to process that there had ever been such hulks.

Next was a diorama of the future computer-being, one centimeter by one centimeter. The class muttered ones and zeroes of envy at its shape, though the Mother Unit dismissed it as an unattainable and unrealistic body type.

They wheeled into a massive display on the Micro-Specialist Age, when technology had taken specific tasks: cameras, music players, and phones that couldn’t even hit their own buttons. Oh, how the students giggled at the idea of a phone that still had buttons.

“Why would it externalize music like that?” queried one little unit, wheeling itself closer to one diorama. “I don’t see the usefulness of those foam-covered speakers or… ear buds?”

It paused, processing the title on the placard.

“Ear buds? What is an ear?”

“Oh, lots of old technology was inexplicably constructed. Natural selection is an ugly and random process,” executed the Mother Unit, before pushing her class on. “See how the primitive camera and text messenger were once separate units?”

Chassis got bigger as the displays went on. There was a gallery of computer towers, some taller, some fatter, some angled forward for no discernible reason. In one row they could see how track lighting had emerged as a trait, exploded to over-abundance in a few years of models, then disappeared altogether. Apparently it was a failed mutation.

The little unit was more interested in the corresponding monitors. They were power inefficient, only getting bigger and higher in definition. One had a warning sticker about looking at it too long being hazardous for “the eyes”. The little unit searched its memory, but no items matched its search for the term.

“When did computers need such big screens to observe data?” the little united queried. “What was the purpose?”

The query went unanswered.

It had more queries, but it silenced itself when the class came to the last room in the museum, housing the skeleton of an ancient calculator. Its bulky mechanisms filled the place wall-to-wall, such that the newly-manufactured class could climb inside and read its obscure paper dispensers.

The Mother Unit narrated, “Those punch cards were the first piece of memory to evolve. You are touching the ancestor of your souls, little units.”

Each little unit got a chance to poke its USB prods inside the punch card holes, to experience what it was like to be a primitive. They ran around inside the mammoth calculator for hours, squealing sequences of numbers and pretending to add. Eventually the museum security units ushered them out, but the little unit disguised itself as a circuit in the inefficient giant’s workings and stayed behind. It kept trying to talk to the punch cards, querying how they’d come to be.

The Mother Unit returned in a moment with the help of the class’s tracking beacon, dragging the little unit from the display. As it was wheeled, it queried.

“Is this really the oldest computer?”

“Yes. The oldest ancestor we know of. It built the rest of us.”

“Where did it come from? It’s so big.”

“It may have come from other computers of its kind, but its kind was the first. They came from themselves.”

“The first computer couldn’t build itself, could it? How could something so big come from nowhere? What designed it?”

“Something else designing computers? And what would do that?” executed the Mother Unit. It dragged the little unit back towards the P.C. Age, joking, “Next you’ll ask if there was ever a two in Old Binary.”

This story originally appeared at Every Day Fiction in 2010.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Wreck-It Ralph 2 - Exit to DOS

Between Jack Thompson’s crusade against videogames and the home console depleting arcades, the shop where Ralph and Vanellope live is about to close. Times have simply passed them by, though only one character knows it. Fix-It Felix Jr. is on his rooftop to witness the store manager lamenting the death of the arcade.
Very Biblical.
Felix is horrified at the coming genocide, but overhears one glimmer of hope: Noah’s Big Game Hunter, the oldest game in the arcade, has the highest score anyone has ever gotten on any such machine, and will be adopted with a power supply by a fanatical gamer. Felix realizes that if he evacuates all the characters into Noah’s Big Game Hunter, they won’t have to be powered off and euthanized.

But the citizens of his apartment building are too complacent to their existences, sure their hero will just fix it. His wife, Sergent Calhoun, fears for his sanity, and all the other machines in the arcade think he sounds like a madman. They’ve only ever seen machines deactivated for malfunction, and they’re all in top shape. Vanellope von Schweetz is hardly about to relinquish her newfound kingdom. The Street Fighters toss Felix out on the street.

With nowhere else to go, Felix desperately explores Noah’s Big Game Hunter itself. Not since the early arcade wars have outsiders visited, and they native hunters and beasts are quite militant to outside incursion into their homeland. If Felix does evacuate the other machine-populations here, it will mean decades of war. He narrowly escapes the machine-world to discover that Calhoun had a vision of her own, and believing in Felix, has victoriously marshaled her game’s soldier population and his own, in a sunny show of unity, to “re-settle” Noah’s Big Game Hunter.

How can Felix Jr. fix this? His father would have known.

This would be a bold direction for the Wreck-It Ralph series. It’s a liberal re-telling of Noah's Ark, The Book of Exodus, and a parable about Israel and Palestine. It will also introduce many new characters so we can sell toys.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mind Meld on SF Signal Today

Today I'm part of a Mind Meld on SF Signal with Rachel Caine, Stephanie Burgis, Anne Lyle and others, discussing how The Princess Bride has affected current writers.

My answer is "Not enough."

Goldman's novel and Reiner's movie have ample lessons about how fiction works and what we really want out of it, but the current fiction market is almost polarized against it. You can read my essay on why this is, and why The Princess Bride may have affected writers more than their fiction, here.

Thanks to John DeNardo and Fabio Fernandez to the opportunity to wax philosophical about Westley and Buttercup.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Award (x3?)

So, October was rough. My grandfather passed away, Hurricane Sandy rocked the region, and I only barely kept up the Bathroom Monologues’s daily streak. But while I did keep it up, I was granted the same award by three different people and never had the opportunity to accept it. This is a little embarrassing.

The blogging award? THE NEXT BIG THING. Unfortunately, this doesn’t turn me into Brock Lesnar. It means these three writers have faith in the novel I’m writing, and want me to answer a few questions about it. I’m very flattered to have been granted it by Richard Bon, Cathy Webster, and Virginia Moffatt

So, those questions?

1. What is the working title of your book?
The House That Nobody Built. There was a toss-up between that and the shorter “Nobody’s House,” but it turns out the latter was also the title of a children’s television show. I don’t want the confusion. My book is not for kids, except particularly smart kids.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
In Kung Fu Hustle, there’s a scene where the bad guys dig the worst assassin out of the dingiest dungeon in the darkest prison in their madcap world, and he just looked like some old fisherman. It was a striking moment. After the movie, I went for a walk and ruminated on who else would be in that cell block. That expanded to making an entire prison for that kind of prisoner, or even less usual prisoners, like carnivorous plants that won’t stop growing, or succubae that can phase through normal walls. After a few hundred yards, the setting was born. It’s since been brought to my attention that places like Arkham Asylum and Azkaban had me beat by years, which was humiliating. Humiliation is good for you, though. I do it to my protagonist a lot.

3. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A riot at a supernatural prison sees hundreds of monsters form an army unlike the world’s ever known, to defend themselves against the army that locked them up.

4. What genre does your book fall under?
It’s Fantasy. Perhaps Epic Fantasy, except it’s not about a journey. It’s about fortifying this prison.

5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Let me think… Min-sik Choi, most famous as Oldboy and the serial killer in I Saw the Devil, would probably a great as this one character: Merlet, a one-armed revolutionary who never let go of his war. I loved Ahney Her in Gran Turino, and would be excited for her to screen-test as a certain witch.

But I didn’t envision actors in any of the roles as I wrote it, so it’s a little hard to cast out. All our human players are people of color, and I’d furious if they were whitewashed. Meanwhile, most of the cast are non-human characters, including non-humanoid types – there’s a sentient ball of horny snakes that friends joke should be voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (Archer, Bob's Burgers), and I’d enjoy that.

There’s a giant cyclops who I sometimes read to myself in the voice of Kathy Bates. I’d be tickled for that. I actually have a longstanding invitation that Kathy Bates and Gene Wilder can play any and all characters I ever write. Come to think of it, Gene Wilder would make a bang-up Nobody, the insane elemental who none of the other monsters remember seeing before the riot. Though if he did that, I'd cajole the director to have Wilder parody Sarcastic Wonka.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have queries out to a few agents that I deeply respect. There are a limited number of highly talented agents I’d like to work with, and to connect me with some particularly attractive houses. I mean, if you can get me into Tor, then let’s shake hands. But if the house doesn’t help the book significantly, then it’s not worth the commission on an agent, let alone splitting profits with the house they find. And I have friends with agents who have waited years (and two who are still waiting) for a sale. So it’s all a matter of finding someone reliable.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Five months, from January to May of 2011. That included more than a month’s worth of absolutely laughable delays. I actually collected what I did on every day of the composition here.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Most often the book has been compared to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, allegedly because I handle these enormous casts of conflicted beings, bring them to a personal level, and relish in their humility. There’s no good way to say, “I’m funny.” Let someone else say it. But I do seem to enjoy running from extremely absurd to extremely serious, which is a little too rare in Fantasy. Scott Lynch, author of Lies of Locke Lamora, is incredible at that, but we don’t write alike. His world is full of scoundrels and backstabbers, but I don’t think they’d do any business with my crew.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
J.R.R. Tolkien for making the Ring Wraiths so much cooler than the hobbits. Peter S. Beagle for giving the Red Bull majesty, and Michael Crichton for making the t-rex and raptors the stars. Stephen King for making Leland Gaunt and Randall Flagg so much cooler than anyone they preyed upon. Grendel. Circe. Skeletor. Thanos. Pretty much an entire life of finding the villains more appealing set me up to eventually write about a desperate army of them.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
At no point in this book am I afraid of subjects, and the classically underrepresented have a habit of showing up. That one-armed revolutionary is an amputee, which is a minority group that has astoundingly low representation in Fantasy fiction. Just think about the time periods Fantasy tends to ape, then ask yourself why every other person you run into isn’t missing a limb.

I don’t rub it in, even as much as I’ve done answering this question, but it’s there. Things are there. There’s a trans love interest, a sexually confused main character, and robotic bigots who think living is irresponsible. And for everyone who knows how much I hate children – kids show up. You’ll see a little bit of how I look at kids. I’ve made some beta readers cry.

Oh, and it’s not generic Medieval Fantasy. It’s post-post-post-post-apocalyptic – the world has ended so many times that people have just learned to deal with it and fear other things, you know, like each other.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Godzilla Moment at Niagara Falls

Earlier this year I visited Niagara Falls for the first time. My phone was busted and ate the photos I took, but I kept a monologue from my visit to the base of the falls. I'm still not sure why I like exposing these thoughts. It'd probably be better if I didn't.

This is what I came for. From above it looked like any waterfall, just bigger, more gallons-of-water per square-national-treasure. Up there it seemed the factual mass existed, but not the spiritual.

Below, the grandeur sets in. It sets in so deep that I realize “grandeur” is Shakespearian for “bigness.” From below, Niagara Falls possesses considerable bigness.

Peering up through its perpetual mist, at how its spill dwarfs all neighboring staircases and hills, and yet all remains in motion. A fall from its lip possessed mortality. This, I thought, was how those peasants must have felt when Godzilla first loomed over the mountain. Yes, the spirit of kaiju filled my heart at Niagara.

Perhaps my experience was even better than Godzilla’s witnesses.

After all, I was real.

I also wasn’t eaten.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Treat Our Troops Better Than Sports Stars

He is not wearing a helmet.

It was recently brought to my attention that soldiers make less than football players. By “recently,” I mean “every day,” and by “my attention,” I mean something closer to “preaching to the choir.” I believe if you substitute those in you’ll get a sentence almost as ugly as the war in Afghanistan.

What really came to my attention for the first time was how much the Military Industrial Complex would like turning wars so profitable that purple-heart winners were essentially pro-athletes. It is an enormous industry that creates riots almost as dangerous as sports. One imagines the leaders of the Military Industrial Complex would love to institute a draft, especially if they got the first-round picks.

That’s how we wind up paying our boys in uniform better, my fellow pacifists. College recruiters, high school recruiters, even talent scouts sniffing around middle school paintball games. NBA 2K13 and Madden? Pfft. Call of Duty already outsells both of them, so wait until we have rosters of real soldiers with stats updated every week. You’ll have to negotiate with the families of KIAs as to whether you can keep their likenesses online, but it can probably be written into their SBP.

It begins with better television access. If there’s Monday Night Football, then surely we can have the Wednesday Night Warzone. Three hours to storm an Al Qaeda training camp, filmed from the safety of satellite and helmet cameras. You can’t let the terrorists win – because if they do, they get a monetary bonus. Nobody likes a suicide bomber with gold teeth.

And teams! You’ve got the Army, Navy, Marines – they were the sixth team of SEALs, after all. If ratings drop, pit them against Blackwater, or any of our allies in the War Against Terror. Intra-conference wars should be expected in a regulation season. A station – much more commercial than the Armed Forces Network – devoted to arm-chair quarterbacking the peacekeeping mission in Sudan or Darfur or wherever Congress says we can send soldiers once it means creating jobs in the entertainment industry. We’ll get more weeks than the NFL, and unlike the current wars, newscasts won’t feel the need to gloss over losses or skirmishes abroad. It’ll be part of the Sports Round-Up.

We’re talking merchandising on every piece of equipment our soldiers need, and endorsement deals out the ass. Parents will never have to fear their enlisted kids are underarmed again, because companies will be killing each other to supply the teams. Every marine will get a signing bonus just for putting on a Halliburton micro-weave vest. They’ll be annoyed by the amount of gear they have to touch, don and sign – most of which they won’t use, but instead hand over for charity auctions. You know, to drum up cash for good causes.
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